Saturday, April 01, 2006

Not an April 1 prank: Australian parliament to probe role of RBA in regulating the payment system

The visible and leading role of the RBA on the discussion of interchange fees is known among payment specialists all over the world. And it is taken as an example by many a regulator (among which the EU Commission) to model its own behaviour.

In this respect it is quite relevant to observe that parliament in Australia may fee that the RBA has gone too far. This article informs us that a powerful parliamentary committee that oversees the Reserve Bank of Australia is planning a two-day hearing in May dedicated entirely to the central bank's controversial deregulation of the nation's $60 billion payments system.

The decision by the standing committee on economics, finance and public administration to focus on one element of the RBA's operations is regarded as unusual. It comes amid suggestions from parts of the banking industry - which has lost substantial fee income from the RBA's reforms to the payments system - that consumers have not benefited and that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission should be reinstated as regulator.


Australian Bankers Association boss David Bell said yesterday that merchants had been the main beneficiaries of the credit card reforms. But there was "little evidence" of merchants passing on their $500 million bonanza to consumers.

So, for those who model their behaviour on the RBA, it would pay to take aboard this development as well.