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Australia signals at digital wallet regulatory crackdown

By Aaron Woolner

03:10, 31 August 2021

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The Australian government looks set to enforce a regulatory regime on digital wallet service providers such as Apple, WeChat and Google.

The Australian Treasury published a report on 30 August which set out 15 recommendations for increased oversight of the digital payment system, including new “powers to protect the payments system”.

Josh Frydenberg, the Australia Treasurer, wrote an opinion piece for an Australian newspaper, published on the same day headlined, “A payment system fit for digital purposes”. 

Payment systems "critical"

In the article he said that he would “carefully consider” recommendations from a government-commissioned report into digital payments systems. 

“Ultimately, if we do nothing to reform the current framework, it will be Silicon Valley alone that determines the future of our payments system, a critical piece of our economic infrastructure,” he said. 

Digital wallets, such as those offered by technology companies such as Apple, WeChat and Google now account for 22% of Australian e-commerce transactions, according to a recent report by bank JPMorgan. 

CBA-Apple spat

In August there was a high profile spat between Australia’s largest lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and Apple, following evidence given to a parliamentary inquiry in July. 

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Apple hit back after the CBA’s chief executive Matt Comyn warned the committe that the US tech firm was restricting competition in the payments market.

The US technology firm then made a submission titled 'The Facts About Apple Pay', which was then published by Australia’s Parliamentary joint committee on corporations and financial services.

CBA comments "misleading"

“Comments made during recent public hearings included misleading and false statements about Apple Pay and our business in Australia which Apple seeks to correct,” it said.

China’s recent crackdown on big technology companies is the most high profile attack on the sector but governents globally have been looking to extend their supervision of the digital economy. 

In February this year Australia passed legislation intended to force Apple and Facebook to pay for the news stories hosted on their networks.

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