SYDNEY (Reuters) -The Australian government said on Wednesday it planned to introduce laws that would empower the central bank to regulate digital wallet providers including Apple Pay and Alphabet’s Google Pay.
Apple Pay, Google Pay and China’s WeChat Pay, which have grown rapidly in recent years, are not currently designated as payment systems, putting them outside Australia’s financial regulatory system.
The proposed rules would enable the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to monitor digital wallet payments in the same way as credit card networks and other transactions. It would also give powers to the treasurer to order regulators to check if any payment platforms pose risks to the country.
“(The) government is addressing the risks posed by new digital payment services, which are currently unregulated, to protect consumers, promote competition and spur innovation,” Treasurer Jim Chalmers said in a statement.
The draft law would expand the definitions of “payment system” and “participant” in Australia’s existing laws, treasury documents showed.
Payments infrastructure and the regulatory framework have not kept pace with transitions in finance, particularly in Australia’s digital economy and payments.
In a June report, the Australian Banking Association said it was witnessing a “phenomenal shift” in payment preferences in recent years, with the number of mobile wallet transactions in the country surging to 2.4 billion in 2022, from 29.2 million in 2018.
Google and Apple have been opposing the government’s move to designate them as payment providers, saying customers only use their phones to use cards issued by banks to make payments.
Apple declined to comment on the draft law and instead referred to a submission it made to the treasury in July, when it said any reforms “should be proportionate to the limited, indirect role” digital services had in the payment system.
Google has been working closely and consistently with the Australian government in support of its reform of the country’s payments system, Lucinda Longcroft, director of public policy at Google Australia, said in an emailed response.
The government has sought feedback from stakeholders on the draft legislation until Nov. 1. The legislation is expected to be introduced to parliament this year.
(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Stephen Coates and Jamie Freed)