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Russia set for national payment system but Visa, MasterCard will stay

May 14, 2014, 16:40 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, May 14. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia will establish its own payment system to replace Visa and MasterCard. The requirements foreign payment systems are obliged to meet will be considerably toughened. However, experts believe a sound compromise will be found to prevent them from entirely leaving the Russian market.

Last week, Vladimir Putin signed a law introducing the national card payment system (NCPS) and aimed to maintain uninterrupted work of international payment systems. The amendments followed a suspension in March of Visa’s and MasterCard’s cooperation with Russian banks affected by the US sanctions over Ukraine.

It is not only the market monopolization that concerns the Russian authorities, but also inadequate privacy of users’ information.

“It is obvious that all foreign systems are convenient and everybody is used to them, but certainly they do not provide privacy and are vulnerable in terms of other risks, in particular politically,” said Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The NCPS operator will be established as an open joint-stock company, 100-percent owned by the Central Bank of Russia (CBR). Wages, pensions and other social payments in Russia will be transferred only to NCPS plastic cards.

The law has significantly stiffened requirements to the payment systems that have clearing centers outside Russia - these are now prohibited from unilateral disconnection of banks. As soon as July 1, 2014, operators of payment systems of no national significance will have to make a guarantee contribution to a special account with the CBR. The amount will depend on the sum transferred by the system in Russia over two calendar days.

The collected money will become an insurance fund to compensate for users’ losses, if Visa and MasterCard again block payments through the banks where Russians have deposits.

From now on, the information about all payments implemented in Russia will be processed on its territory.

“Visa and MasterCard account for about 80-90% of cards. Accordingly, the leverage of managing these cards is beyond Russia’s control… We want transactions within Russia to be processed under our supervision,” the Nasha Versiya paper quotes the Director of the CBR Settlement Regulation Department Roman Prokhorov as saying.

Experts believe that the head of the VTB 24 bank Mikhail Zadornov is overoptimistic in forecasting the NPS may be up and running in six months' time.

“It took China a decade to create the international payment system. Such things are not done overnight,” believes the head of the CFB Bank's analytical department, Maxim Osadchy.

The NPS may find it difficult to enter the world arena. Its cards will likely be accepted in the CIS states. However, travelers in other foreign countries will have to either open a temporary account there to use the card or pay only with cash.

Visa and MasterCard seem to be at sea so far. MasterCard’s statement says some provisions of the newly adopted law could create difficulties for the company’s operations in Russia and harm the Russian e-payment market over the long term. According to Visa’s interim estimate, the deposit stated in the law several times exceeds the company’s annual revenue in Russia.

The international payment systems are unwilling to lose the Russian market. Visa, in particular, is going to closely cooperate with the government to find a way out.

“For travelling abroad we’ll need a solution compatible with Visa and MasterCard, or UnionPay at worst,” the chairman of the E-Money Association’s council Viktor Dostov said on Kommersant FM. “There seems to be a reasonable deal coming up.”

Professor of the Higher School of Economics Ivan Rodionov does not believe Visa and MasterCard will leave the Russian market: “I think there will be a compromise. The flows will be redistributed. They will just be getting less.”

As many as 85% will prefer a national payment system to Visa and MasterCard cards, shows the poll that the Regnum news agency conducted among about 40,000 web users, while 11% of respondents are not ready to quit them.

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