Proposed regulations for Retail Payment Activities Act open for public comment

retail payment
Bank of Canada’s Ron Morrow: “It is your one chance to shape the regime.”

The Department of Finance Canada has published the proposed regulations for the Retail Payment Activities Act (RPAA) meant to introduce a supervisory framework for payment service providers (PSPs)’ retail payment activities.

Finance Canada published the proposed regulations last week in the Canada Gazette. It expands on previously shared information about the RPAA, including operational risk management, safeguarding user funds, as well as registration and reporting requirements with the Bank of Canada.

“The only reason why [FinTechs] weren’t being given access is that they were unregulated. This retail payments supervision regime is changing all that.”

The Bank estimates around 2,500 PSPs operate in Canada, and is seeking public commentary from the community until March 28.

“It is your one chance to shape the regime, and so we want to make sure that as many people are aware of it as they can be,” said Ron Morrow, executive director of retail payments supervision at the Bank of Canada.

Morrow has been leading the charge as the Bank lays the foundation to regulate entities facilitating retail payment functions in Canada, which includes FinTech companies of various sizes.

In an interview with BetaKit in August 2022, Morrow said: “[FinTech companies] need to know that it’s coming, and they need to be ready for this regime when it comes into force.”

Since the RPAA passed in June, players in Canada’s FinTech space have been cautiously optimistic. Daniel Eberhard, CEO of FinTech firm Koho, expressed support for the new regulations if they give startups equal footing in Canada’s payments landscape.

Fintechs Canada executive director Alex Vronces told BetaKit following the release of the proposed regulations that they are an important step toward giving FinTechs access to payment systems. “For a long time, the only reason why [FinTechs] weren’t being given access is that they were unregulated. This retail payments supervision regime is changing all that, and so the next phase of the government’s plan can begin.”

The proposed regulations state that in order to register with the Bank, applicants are required to pay a $2,500 registration fee, which will be adjusted for inflation over time. PSPs are also expected to pay for annual assessment fees.

The Bank notes in the proposed regulations that it may refuse an application or revoke a PSP’s registration and will maintain a registry of registered PSPs. Further, it will also require PSPs to file a new application with the Bank if a new individual or entity seeks to acquire control of it.

Once registered, PSPs are required to report to the Bank through several channels, including annual reports, incident reports, and significant change reports.

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The proposed regulations also outline certain requirements for PSPs in terms of their risk management and incident reporting frameworks, which include establishing roles and responsibilities for the management of operational risk and incidents; having access to sufficient human and financial resources to maintain the framework; and managing risks from third-party service providers, agents, and mandataries.

The Act also proposes to require PSPs to hold funds in trust or hold funds in a segregated account and hold insurance or a guarantee in respect of the funds. The regulations may also prescribe alternative approaches, however “none are proposed at this time.” The proposed regulations also state that PSPs would be required to have a written safeguarding-of-funds framework to ensure that users would have access to their funds without delay.

According to the proposed Act, the safeguarding-of-funds framework must describe the PSP’s systems, policies, processes, procedures, controls and other means to protect consumers’ and businesses’ funds.

The Act also has implications for the real-time rail (RTR) system. In an interview with BetaKit in August 2022, Morrow said that PSPs will be eligible to submit an application to join RTR. However, the recently published proposed regulations don’t provide any details about the RTR system as it stands to date.

The RTR is meant to become Canada’s national payments processing system that aims to support faster payments, within seconds. Morrow told BetaKit in a separate interview in November that PSPs overseen by the RPAA and that meet Payments Canada’s requirements for participation on the RTR will be able to become direct participants when the rail becomes online.

“That can be a very big deal for them,” Morrow said. “They don’t need another bank or financial institution to hook into the financial infrastructure. Now they can do it directly themselves.”

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz is a staff writer for BetaKit.

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