State Regulators Form Emerging Payments Task Force

On February 20, the CSBS announced the formation of an Emerging Payments Task Force to study changes in payment systems—including virtual currencies and other innovations—to determine the potential impact on consumer protection, state law, and banks and nonbank entities chartered or licensed by the states. The Task Force is comprised of nine state regulators, including New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Lawsky who has recently indicated New York will seek to become the first state to directly address virtual currency through new regulations. The Task Force will be chaired by David Cotney, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Banks, who testified on these issues on behalf of the CSBS last fall before the Senate Banking Committee. The CSBS stated that the Task Force will “take a comprehensive approach to studying the changing payment systems” by engaging with a broad range of federal, state, and industry stakeholders to understand how new entrants and technologies affect the stability of payment systems and the broader financial marketplace and “to develop ideas for connecting the emerging payments landscape to the financial regulatory fabric.”

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CFPB Director Defends Mortgage Rules, Discusses Plans In Other Markets

On January 28, the House Financial Services Committee held a lengthy hearing with CFPB Director Richard Cordray in connection with the CFPB’s November 2013 Semi-Annual Report to Congress, which covers the period April 1, 2013 through September 30, 2013. The hearing came a day after the Committee launched a CFPB-like “Tell Your Story” feature through which it is seeking information from consumers and business owners about how the CFPB has impacted them or their customers. The Committee has provided an online submission form and also will take stories by telephone. Mr. Cordray’s prepared statement provided a general recap of the CFPB’s recent activities and focused on the mortgage rules and their implementation. It also specifically highlighted the CFPB’s concerns with the student loan servicing market.

The question and answer session centered on the implementation and impact of the CFPB’s mortgage rules, as well as the CFPB’s activities with regard to auto finance, HMDA, credit reporting, student lending, and other topics. Committee members also questioned Mr. Cordray on the CFPB’s collection and use of consumer data, particularly credit card account data, and the costs of the CFPB’s building construction/rehabilitation.

Mortgage Rule Implementation / Impact

Generally, Director Cordray pushed back against charges that the mortgage rules, in particular the ATR/QM rule, are inflexible and will limit credit availability. He urged members to wait for data before judging the impacts, and he suggested that much of the concerns being raised are “unreasoned and irrational,” resulting from smaller institutions that are unaware of the CFPB’s adjustments to the QM rule. He stated that he has personally called many small banks and has learned they are just not aware of the rule’s flexibility. He repeatedly stated that the rules can be amended, and that the CFPB will be closely monitoring market data.

The impact of the mortgage rules on the availability of credit for manufactured homes was a major topic throughout the hearing, On the substance of the issue, which was raised by Reps. Pearce (R-NM), Fincher (R-TN), Clay (D-MO), Sewell (D-AL), and others, Director Cordray explained that in his understanding, the concerns from the manufactured housing industry began with earlier changes in the HOEPA rule that resulted in a retreat from manufacture home lending. He stated that industry overreacted and now lenders are coming back into the market. Mr. Cordray has met personally with many lenders on this issue and will continue to do so while monitoring the market for actual impacts, as opposed to the “doomsday scenarios that are easy to speculate on in a room like this.” Still, he committed to work on this issue with manufacturers and lenders, as well as committee members. Read more…

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Look Before You Invest: Bitcoins, Virtual Currencies, Emerging Payment Products, and Regulatory Compliance

Margo H.K. Tank, Michael Zeldin, and Ian C.B. Spear, attorneys with BuckleySandler LLP in Washington DC, advise financial institutions on electronic financial services, mobile payments, prepaid access and virtual payment methods, in the areas of anti-money laundering, privacy, trade sanctions, and regulatory compliance.

Emerging payment products, such as Bitcoin, present tantalizing investment opportunities. The claim that these products are “unregulatable,” or “free of the power of the state” increases the temptation to participate, because if true, regulatory uncertainty associated with traditional financial industries would be eliminated. Notwithstanding these claims, virtual currency laws and regulations seem primed to explode. Acknowledging that “virtual currency systems offer ‘legitimate’ financial services,” the Department of Justice, for example, has investigated and prosecuted illegal activities involving virtual currencies. As a result, risk-related issues like money laundering, terrorist financing, and economic and trade sanctions remain critical to evaluating investments in emerging payment products. To understand why, consider how the emerging payments industry is regulated now and what additional regulation might emerge.

Click here to read the full article at JDSupra.com.

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Payment Network Providers Seek Collaboration On Digital Payment Standard

On October 1, three payment network providers proposed that industry stakeholders collaborate on a token-based global security standard for online and mobile commerce. To meet growing consumer demand for secure digital transactions, the providers propose replacing traditional account numbers with a digital payment “token” for online and mobile transactions. They argue that tokens provide an additional layer of security and eliminate the need for merchants, digital wallet operators or others to store account numbers. The proposed standard used to generate tokens would be based on existing industry standards and would be available to all payment networks and other payment participants. The providers identify the following as key elements of the proposed standard: (i) new data fields to provide richer information about the transaction, which can help improve fraud detection and expedite the approval process, (ii) consistent methods to identify and verify a consumer before replacing the traditional card account number with a token, and (iii) a common standard designed to simplify the process for merchants for contactless, online or other transactions. The proposed standard incorporates comments from card issuers and merchants, and the participants intend to seek further collaboration from standard-setting bodies and other stakeholders.

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Federal Reserve Banks Seek Public Input on Threats to Payment System

On September 10, the Federal Reserve Banks issued a public consultation paper  that identifies “key gaps and opportunities” in the U.S. payment system. They include: (i) payment recipients prefer other forms of payments than checks but exercise little control over the sender to request a preferred form of payment, (ii) the system lacks a “near-real-time” payment capability, (iii) innovations have not gained significant market penetration while legacy systems tend to be more ubiquitous, (iv) legacy systems lack certain desired features, including, for example, assurance that a payment will not be returned or reversed, (v) cross-border payments are slow and costly, and lack fee and timing transparency, (vi) some digital wallet applications reduce the visibility and choice of payment instrument at the point of sale, (vii) businesses’ legacy payment and accounting systems make straight-through processing difficult, but are costly to change, and (viii) data security fears inhibit adoption of electronic payments. The paper outlines certain desired outcomes and seeks input on strategies and tactics to address the perceived gaps and shape the future of the domestic payment system. Interested stakeholders can submit comments until December 13, 2013.

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August Beach Read Series: Growing Mobile Technology Impacts the Financial Services Industry

As the technology continues to grow and become a part of day-to-day life, smartphones and tablets are reshaping the delivery of financial services to consumers. The mobile device is quickly becoming a full-fledge platform for electronic financial services, especially for mobile payments.

The variety and number of mobile devices and service providers to support them has introduced new and different stakeholders – all of whom are competing with traditional financial institutions for dominance in the mobile commerce/mobile payment space. This new and rapidly evolving environment presents new and operational risks for consumers, payment providers, and the recipients of the payments. It will be vital to identify who has legal responsibility and liability for the various risks associated with payment platforms and payment transactions.

To learn more about the mobile technology issues impacting the financial services industry, please review some of our recent articles on the issue. BuckleySandler attorneys Margo Tank and David Whitaker raise legal considerations surrounding the regulatory uncertainty in mobile payments in their article, “Is Regulatory Uncertainty an Impediment to Mobile Payments?” earlier this year. In “Federal Regulators Issue Guidance on Social Media and Mobile PrivacyMargo, David, and Ian Spear discuss the recent guidance and flexible guidelines issued by the FFIEC and FTC. Another recent article by Margo and David provides a list of the accessibility items financial services companies should consider when developing their websites and mobile apps.

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Federal Reserve Board Report Reviews Consumer Use of Mobile Financial Services

On March 27, the Federal Reserve Board presented the findings of a November 2012 online survey of consumers’ use of mobile technology to access financial services and make financial decisions. The report follows a related March 2012 Federal Reserve Board report, and includes the Board’s general findings that (i) mobile phones and mobile Internet access are in widespread use, (ii) the ubiquity of mobile phones is changing the way consumers access financial services, (iii) mobile phones are also changing the way consumers make payments, (iv) security and usefulness concerns continue to be the main impediments to the adoption of mobile financial services, (v) smartphones are changing the way people shop, and (vi) mobile phones are prevalent among unbanked and underbanked consumers. The report points out that the use of mobile phones to make payments at the point of sale has increased more rapidly than the use of mobile phones for banking, and that there is “substantial growth potential” for mobile payments as the ability to make them becomes more widespread.

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FTC Issues Report on Mobile Payment Consumer Protections

On March 8, the FTC released a report on mobile payments by consumers. The report, based on a FTC workshop held in April 2012, focuses on financial, security, and privacy consumer protections. The FTC encourages companies to develop clear dispute resolution policies to address customer claims of fraudulent mobile payments or unauthorized charges. The report highlights “special concerns” with mobile carrier billings, in which mobile carriers place charges on phone bills on behalf of third-parties, based on the FTC’s concern that there are no federal statutory protections governing consumer disputes about fraudulent or unauthorized charges placed on mobile carrier bills. The FTC also encourages industry-wide adoption of strong security measures and suggests ways sensitive financial information can be kept secure during the mobile payment process, including end-to-end encryption. The report highlights the need for mobile payment companies to practice “privacy by design,” incorporating strong privacy practices, consumer choice, and transparency into their products from the outset. Finally, the report notes privacy issues arising from the consolidation of consumers’ personal information in the mobile payment process.

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Electronic Transactions Association Releases Resources for Mobile Payment Solutions

On February 19, the Electronic Transactions Association’s (ETA) Mobile Payments Committee released three resources to help firms navigate emerging issues in the mobile payments market. The Committee is an industry-wide task force of representatives from credit card networks, processors, mobile network operators, developers, financial institutions, and device manufacturers. The first resource, “Best Practices and Guidelines for Mobile Payment Solutions,” addresses security, privacy and competition issues relevant to merchants, consumers, federal and state legislators, federal regulators, merchant acquirers, credit card issuers, and infrastructure providers. In the second, a white paper entitled “Beyond the Hype: Mobile Payments for Merchants,” the Committee provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of mobile payments, as well as analysis of the risks and costs for merchants to consider before deploying mobile payments solutions. Finally, the Committee issued a “Mobile Payments Glossary of Terms.”

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PCI Security Standards Council Offers Guidance for Protecting Payment Card Data

On February 14, the PCI Security Standards Council, the open global forum responsible for setting payment security standards, issued guidelines for merchants on the factors and risks they must address to protect card data when using mobile devices. The guidance addresses the three main risks associated with mobile payment transactions: account data entering the device, account data residing in the device, and account data leaving the device. The guidance also (i) provides recommended measures for merchants regarding the physical and logical security of mobile devices used for payment acceptance, and (ii) recommendations regarding the different components of the payment acceptance solution, including the hardware, software, the use of the payment acceptance solution, and the relationship with the customer. The PCI Security Standards Council also recently released guidance for securing payment card data in cloud environments, and guidance regarding security for payment transactions conducted over the Internet.

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NACHA Finalizes Guidelines for Use of Quick Response Codes for Consumer Bill Pay

Recently, NACHA – The Electronic Payments Association’s Council for Electronic Billing and Payment, released final guidelines to facilitate the use of Quick Response (QR) codes for a variety of consumer bill payment functions, including viewing bills, making payments, enrolling for eBills, and setting up payees in online banking. The guidelines provide voluntary standards for using QR codes in both biller direct and consolidator/aggregator billing and payment models, and provides recommends for (i) QR code size, (ii) data to be included in the QR code, and (iii) layout of the data represented in the QR code. The guidelines are intended to establish a single QR code format that can be printed on a paper bill and scanned by a consumer’s mobile phone using a biller, mobile banking, or generic QR code reader to allow billers and service providers to enable QR encoding in a standardized format, provide certainty for biller and banking clients, and ensure a consistent consumer experience.

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Federal Regulators Propose Guidance for Social Media Use

On January 22, the FFIEC proposed guidance on the applicability of consumer protection and compliance laws, regulations, and policies to activities conducted via social media by federally supervised financial institutions, as well as nonbanks supervised by the CFPB. With regard to compliance and legal risks, the guidance addresses (i) the applicability of existing federal laws and regulations to the use of social media for marketing and originating new deposit and lending products and the use of social media to facilitate consumer use of payment systems; (ii) the need to apply BSA/AML internal controls to customers engaging in electronic banking through the use of social media, and e-banking products and services offered in the context of social media, as well as BSA/AML risks emerging through the growing use of social media; (iii) CRA monitoring of social media sites run by an institution; and (vi) customer privacy issues associated with social media. The guidance also reviews reputational risks related to social media, including risks related to (i) fraud and brand identity; (ii) social media vendor monitoring; (iii) privacy; (iv) consumer complaints; and (v) employee use of social media. Finally, the guidance addresses the vulnerability of social media to malware and the resultant operational risk. The FFIEC is accepting comments for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. After the comment period, the agencies will issue supervisory guidance and will urge state regulators to follow. 

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FDIC Supervisory Insights Focuses on Mobile Payments and High-Yield Checking

On December 17, the FDIC published the Winter 2012 issues of Supervisory Insights. The two featured articles focus on mobile payments and high-yield checking. In “Mobile Payments: An Evolving Landscape,” FDIC staff (i) review mobile payment technology, (ii) provide guidance regarding understanding and managing risks, and (iii) include a chart explaining the applicability of various federal laws to mobile payments. The article states that, going forward, non-bank mobile payment providers may start to capture greater market share from financial institutions and alter bank/customer relationships. The article describes the potential for banks to gradually be pushed out of the payment transaction, and identifies potential impacts of such disintermediation, including loss of access to key customer data. A second article, “High-Yield Checking Accounts: Know the Rules,” reviews the features of high-yield checking accounts and identifies problematic disclosures that may accompany their promotion. The article identifies what examiners look for when examining high-yield account offerings and provides best practices for banks.

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European Parliament Moves Towards Common Rules for Card Payments

On November 20, the European Parliament adopted a nonbinding resolution calling for the development of common rules and standards for personal credit and debit card payments. The resolution explains that such rules would bring the card payment market “closer to its full potential and efficiency.” The Members of Parliament called on the European Commission to develop the legislative proposals needed to extend the current single Euro payments area (SEPA) regulation, which governs euro credit and direct debit transactions among banks, to the market for card, internet and mobile payments, but cautioned that lawmakers should avoid regulating the internet and mobile payment market too heavily, so as not to hinder its growth and innovation. The resolution also claims that current fees for handling card payments are high relative to the costs they need to cover, but does not call for caps. Finally, the resolution states that minimum security requirements for card, internet and mobile payments should be the same in all EU member states.

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Canada Proposes Adding Mobile Payments to Card Industry Voluntary Code of Conduct

Recently, Canada’s Department of Finance published a consultation paper that proposes an addendum to the Code of Conduct for the Credit and Debit Card Industry in Canada to apply the Code to mobile payments. The Code, which took effect in August 2010, is a voluntary measure applicable to credit and debit card networks and covers point-of-sale, Internet, and phone payment methods. The addendum would extend the Code to apply explicitly to payments initiated by consumers that access a deposit or credit account through a payment network accessed by mobile device at the point-of-sale. The addendum also would clarify the way in which five of the ten elements of the code would apply to mobile payments. For example, the addendum would prohibit credit and debit card functions from co-residing in the same mobile payment application. Canada’s Department of Finance has invited stakeholder comments on all aspects of the proposal.

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