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Digital financial services

Using digital technology to access financial services (known as Fintech) is becoming an everyday occurrence for millions of us, and is set to be a growing trend in how we spend, send and save money. People can now pay bills, transfer money and access their bank statements easily using their computer or mobile phone. In higher income countries, this gives greater choice and convenience. In developing countries, the growth in digital financial services has given millions of consumers (who previously had little or no access to a bank account) access to financial services for the first time. But with technology developing so fast, it can be hard to keep up. We are concerned that consumer protection mechanisms within financial services are being outpaced by the development of mobile banking and associated technologies.

Consumers International's Director General, Amanda Long speaks at UNCTAD e-commerce Week 2017

mobile finance standard

As more people make transactions using their phone, tablet or computer it is important that we can be sure these payments are secure and our consumer rights are fully protected. Consumers International is working with the OECD, the UN and the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to introduce and enhance consumer protection for e-commerce and fintech (the use of digital technology to deliver financial services).

A new international standard for mobile financial services

In some cases the regulation of financial services is struggling to keep up with new developments and in some areas, the level of protection that consumers receive is decided by the provider.
Consumers International worked closely with a range of stakeholders as part of an ISO working group to develop a new international standard for mobile financial services (ISO 12812 Core banking – mobile financial services) to ensure the standard included the consumer protections that would be expected for traditional services, but updated for the challenges created by new technology.

 

 

We fought for limits on how much consumers would be liable for unauthorised or fraudulent use of their payment systems. We secured more transparency in remittances sent between countries and we gained important safeguards on logging transactions and receipts, with electronic logs being kept available.

One specific issue that had clearly not been considered until our intervention was the treatment of dormant assets, in particular in the event of the death of an account holder, a major issue where consumers do not have an individualised mobile phone contract as in much of Africa.

The new standard, published in 2016, promotes best practice, trust in services and the building of consumer confidence in mobile financial services.

The standard will be reviewed periodically. As mobile financial services become ever more present, especially in developing countries, we must maintain the pressure for improved protections.

highlights, successes and related materials

  • Our Director General, Amanda Long, spoke on a key panel for UNCTAD's E-commerce Week (eng) in 2017, alongside Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, the Director General of the World Trade Organisation, Director General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Director General of UNCTAD.   
  • Our 2014 briefing paper on mobile payments (eng) set out the main consumer protection issues with paying money through our phones. 

Mobile payments and consumer protection

(eng)

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