Mastercard, rivals ‘ran cartel’ on cards for the vulnerable – UK watchdog

LONDON (Reuters) -Mastercard is among five companies which broke the law for cartel behaviour when offering pre-paid cards to vulnerable members of society, Britain’s Payment Systems Regulator said on Wednesday.

Mastercard, allpay, APS, PFS and Sulion agreed not to compete or poach each other’s customers on cards used by local authorities for welfare payments including to the homeless, victims of domestic violence and asylum seekers, the PSR said.

The investigation is ongoing and the companies can make representations on the provisional findings, the PSR said.

Mastercard, allpay and PFS have admitted liability and if the regulator ultimately concludes there is wrongdoing have agreed to pay maximum fines totalling more than 32 million pounds ($44 million), the watchdog said.

The PSR alleges two infringements of Britain’s 1998 competition law.

One breach took place over six years between 2012 and 2018 and involved all five firms, the PSR said.

The other lasted between 2014 and 2016 and involved APS and FPS, the watchdog said.

“Pre-paid card services, like these, can provide significant benefits to local authorities as one way to make welfare payments to some of the most vulnerable people in society,” said Chris Hemsley, managing director of the PSR.

“By colluding in this way, we consider the parties were acting as a cartel… Collusion in payments is absolutely unacceptable. Where we see it happening, we will take action, stop it, and seek to impose significant penalties.”

Mastercard said it took the issue very seriously and had put further controls and training in place, adding the incident was isolated to UK prepaid cards.

“We apologise that the actions of two former employees resulted in the standards expected of us not being met in this instance,” a Mastercard spokesman said.

PFS said it would make an announcement in due course.

Allpay and APS were not immediately available for comment. Sulion could not be reached.

Central bank approves WhatsApp e-cash payments – Brazil

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s central bank on Tuesday cleared the way for Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service to let its users send each other funds using the Visa Inc and Mastercard card networks, according to a statement.

The central bank had initially suspended WhatsApp’s bid to allow users to send money via chats when it was first proposed last June, saying it could damage Brazil’s existing payments system in terms of competition, efficiency and data privacy.

“(We) are making the final preparations to have payments on WhatsApp available in Brazil as soon as possible,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement. The messaging platform has over 120 million users in Brazil.

Still, WhatsApp is only allowed to do peer-to-peer payments, not involving merchants. The regulatory approval also comes months after the central bank launched its own instant payments system in November, called Pix, which has since been widely adopted.

Edinburgh financial technology firm sold in £144m deal

One of Scotland’s leading financial technology firms is being bought over in a deal that values the firm at £144m. 

Nucleus Financial provides a software platform to 800 small and medium-scale financial adviser firms. 

It is being bought by the James Hay Group, which specialises in providing technology in the pensions industry.

Nucleus, led by chief executive David Ferguson. is based in Edinburgh with nearly 400 employees.

Richard Rowney, chief executive of the James Hay Group, said: “We admire much about Nucleus and the skills within its team, and look forward to working with them to better serve the growing needs of advisers.”

Source: BBC Business

Zeepay wins Best Fintech of the Year at GITTA 2020

Zeepay, a fast-growing fintech company in Mobile Financial Services across Africa, has for the first time been adjudged the Best Fintech of the Year at the 2020 Ghana Information Technology and Telecoms Awards (GITTA).

The company’s CEO, Andrew Takyi-Appiah also won the Best Fintech CEO of the Year at the same event to cement the brand’s position as a leading player in the ever expanding financial technology space.

These awards come on the back of outstanding works done by the fintech company which started as a conduit for major money transfer giants but has metamorphosed into a comprehensive financial technology company.

Andrew Takyi Appiah and his team receiving the award

The company undertake mobile money services, money transfer services straight to mobile wallets across Africa and offers insurance for beneficiaries of money transfer.

Mr Takyi-Appiah, who with some members of his team picked up the awards on the night, praised the tenacity and hard work of his team for helping transform the company from a small one just five years ago to the top of the fintech industry.

“When we started, the plan has been to become the biggest fintech on the continent, deepening financial inclusion with several products and services, but we didn’t see it happening so soon. This goes to show that with the right team and dedication, anything can be achieved.

“This award would spur us on to do better. This is a complete team effort and I am honoured to work with such a visionary board, strategic management team and dedicated staff.

“To our customers who keep believing in us by constantly using our products and services, we dedicate this award to you too,” he said.

Zeepay, earlier this year became the first fintech to be granted a license to operate a full Electronic Money Issuer service otherwise known as Mobile Money by the Bank of Ghana.

The service now allows Zeepay’s subscribers to operate the full bouquet of mobile money services such as Cash In, Cash Out, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Transfers, Payments and Digital Termination of Remittances (DTR).

Since the issuance of the licence the company has launched its services with the short code *270# which allows you to register remotely without needing to visit a branch and begin sending and receiving money, paying bills, buying airtime and undertaking any financial transactions any other mobile money service allows you.

It has partnered over 100,000 mobile money agents across the country to help the platform’s users cash out money or load their wallets with cash.

Via partnerships with several institutions in insurance, money transfer, pensions and banks, Zeepay’s subscribers can undertake seemless remittances, purchase micro insurance, auto insurance, mortgage remit, airtime top-up, bill payment and pension collections.

The GITTA award recognises not only the products and diverse innovations that keep the ICT & Telecom sector thriving but also the companies and people who make the industry great. The award was open to all players and stakeholders in the ICT ecosystem.

GITTA is considered the most celebrated ICT awards, attracting the crème de la crème and top decision makers in the sector. It is organised in partnership with the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications.