Back in January 2012, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) asked for experts to join the working group preparing a new international standard on Mobile Banking/Payments, in particular asking CI if we could represent the consumer stakeholder group, providing expertise, particularly in the field of consumer protection.
Four years later our efforts have borne fruit in the form of ISO 12812 Core banking – mobile financial services. It takes the form of an international standard on the general framework for these services (Part 1) and is supported by four technical specifications on specific sectors of the business (parts 2-5 see below).
Achieving an ISO standard was not a smooth passage, two rounds of voting by national standards bodies were needed to gain approval. The second only succeeding on the basis that papers 2-5 do not have full international standard status. Nevertheless, CI felt able to support the final standard but it was not an easy process. Consumer experts encountered resistance to some basic consumer protection issues being included at times, even when they were optional (and bearing in mind that international standards are voluntary).
Ably assisted by experts from our members we fought for limits on how much consumers would be liable for, in the case of unauthorised or fraudulent use of their payment systems. We secured greater 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 was not considered until our intervention was the treatment of dormant assets, in particular in the event of the death of an account holder. This is a major issue where consumers do not have an individualised mobile phone contracts, such as in much of Africa.
How worth-while are such exercises? After all, standards are not legally binding, they are voluntarily adopted by companies and cannot be enforced in court. CI expended scarce resources travelling to Paris, Chicago, Boston, also taking part in many teleconferences, and drafting in great detail. These factors are important considerations. But without our participation the consumer voice would not have been heard at all. The alternative, legislation and binding regulation, can only be applied at national level one country at a time, and legislation may be even slower to develop than standards, if at all.
Even if it will require another review for our conditions to be fully met, the applicability of this standards is potentially global. And in many countries, the standards adopted today can form the basis of regulation tomorrow. Standards can also be used by consumer organisations as a sound basis to compare businesses and to support those that offer best practice terms to consumers. They can also be used to hold transnational companies to account to provide an equal level of service to all consumers, in all countries they are doing business.
Papers 2-5 will be reviewed in two years’ time and CI would also support a review of ISO 12812, given the speed of development in this sector. At that point we hope to be able to strengthen the standard further and make the case for all parts to be given full International Standard status. The mobile payment and banking sector is fast evolving, and so the standards that keep consumers safe must also move with it.
You can read more about the Standards here.