Is Facebook Messenger payment technology coming to Australia?

Sally McMullen 3 July 2017 NEWS

lady-coffee-smartphone738x410Facebook has been granted an Australian patent for peer-to-peer Messenger payments.

Splitting bills with friends is about to get a whole lot easier. Facebook has won a patent in Australia that will allow peer-to-peer (P2P) payments within its Messenger service. Apparently, however, there are no official plans for the P2P payments to roll out in Australia just yet.

Although the patent has been approved, it’s likely that Facebook Messenger payments will need to take some more steps before it's officially launched here. While the Reserve Bank of Australia’s Payments System Board is undoubtedly going to have an opinion about Facebook Messenger payments, it’s possible that the service could launch without its approval. As long as Facebook forms an agreement with a payments gateway and acceptance service, it should have no issue rolling out Messenger payments as long as it abides by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) consumer code of conduct.

Facebook first launched its P2P payments in the US in 2015. Enabled through Facebook’s Messenger app, users can link their debit card to the app to make and receive payments to and from family, friends and groups within their social network.

The service is free for users, but is reported to run on payment rails provided by Visa’s V.me or Mastercard Send. So, while it’s unlikely to be a direct revenue stream for Facebook, it’s one more way that the social network can increase members’ usage of the app. It’s also likely to become another data source for Facebook, to allow the website to know more about customers’ financial habits and increase the value for advertisers on the network.

If Messenger payments launches in Australia, it will compete with the New Payments Platform (NPP) that is due to roll out in October this year. The big Australian banks have spent more than $1 billion creating the system under the guidance of the RBA. It will also be launched with a new Osko brand (via the bank-owned BPAY), which will allow customers to make and receive real-time payments using a “PayID” instead of a traditional account and BSB number.

Facebook Messenger and its 17 million Australian Facebook users could pose a serious threat to the NPP and could make it difficult for banks to cover their investment in the new payment system.

This also isn’t the first time that Australian banks have experimented with payment technology through social media. In fact, Apple recently pulled the plug on Westpac’s keyboard feature that would allow customers to make payments through Snapchat, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. This move by the tech giant has caused quite the stir, with many accusing Apple of stifling competition. ACCC chairman Rod Sims has also announced plans to speak with Apple to receive a proper explanation of the ban and to assess if any further action is required.

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