Singapore to develop common QR code system for e-payments

Cash is still king in Singapore, especially at mom-and-pop shops that have to pay credit card fees that do not make business sense for small transactions.

In a bid to encourage greater adoption of e-payments, the newly-formed Payments Council is setting up a taskforce to develop a common QR code-based payment system in Singapore.

The taskforce will be co-led by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority, and involve banks, payment schemes, QR payment service providers, and relevant government agencies.

The Payments Council says a common QR code based payment system will facilitate payments among different payment schemes, e-wallets and banks. It would also help make payment transactions simple, swift, seamless and safe for everyone.

More importantly, the system will prevent the proliferation of proprietary QR code systems, leading to further fragmentation of Singapore’s e-payment ecosystem that currently supports a cacophony of payment services from telcos, banks, smartphone makers and the likes of EZ-Link and Nets.

By the end of this year, the QR code taskforce aims to put in place standardised specifications to accept domestic and international payments using QR codes. It will also consider the governance structure and implementation strategy for QR payments.

Ravi Menon, chairman of the Payments Council and managing director of the MAS, says the council’s goal is “to make the payments experience efficient for businesses and delightful for everyone, including the young and elderly”.

Exactly how the council plans to achieve that goal remains to be seen. Already, some merchants and front-line cashiers find it hard to keep up with the growing array of e-payment options. Further, less tech-savvy elderly food hawkers who are used to dealing with cash may not be adept at using smartphones.

Education and marketing are thus crucial to the success of Singapore’s common QR code system, a point that was made by Yeo Hiang Meng, president of the Federation of Merchants’ Association, Singapore. “We hope to see intensified marketing efforts to encourage businesses and consumers to adopt mobile payments at heartland shops and hawker centres.”