Voice of the Industry

How new legislation is changing ecommerce and e-payments in Russia

Tuesday 3 November 2015 00:29 CET | Author Melisande Mual | Voice of the industry

Elena Orlova, Sun Consulting: This article reviews the most significant developments as far as international players are concerned

Since 2013, the Russian legislation on electronic payments has undergone several changes, in parallel with the development of a national payment platform. This article reviews the most significant developments as far as international players are concerned.

E-wallets and prepaid cards
In 2011, the law on payment systems changed Russia’s e-payments scene dramatically, with all e-wallet issuers and payment aggregators becoming subject to the central bank regulation. Several additional specifications or rules were further introduced. Among the most recent ones were those concerning the identification of e-wallet and prepaid card users.

From the very beginning, the rules for user identification contained only two possible options:

• Full user identification, requiring users to personally visit a physical office of the e-wallet issuer, present their ID card and sign the corresponding papers. Such users may use e-wallets without restrictions. (A bank card has always been treated as a fully identifiable token for its holder)

• Non-identified users may make transactions of up to RUB 15,000 (approximately USD 240 at the current exchange rate) with a total monthly transaction cap at RUB 40.000 (approximately USD 650).

Such limitations led to significant restrictions for users making online purchases over the USD 240 threshold – for example, flight tickets, electronic devices, etc. For many such consumers, bank cards or online bank transfers were the only available payment instruments. The situation needed to be changed.

In May 2014, new rules introduced a “simplified identification” procedure. This procedure required users to provide their mobile phone number, passport number and a secondary identification number (tax payer or insurance numbers). Under this procedure, there is no limit for one transaction, but the total monthly payment amount must not exceed RUB 200,000 (USD 3,250), while the e-wallet’s daily closing balance should not be higher than RUB 60,000 (USD 1,000). This simplified identification procedure applies to cross-border transactions.

Personal data
According to new legislation, which came into force on 1 September 2015, only databases located in Russia may be used to store Russian citizens’ personal data (See white paper by EWDN and EY). Thus, e-merchants and PSPs have been required to transfer the data to Russia in case of foreign data centers which were used before the new regulation.

Meanwhile, some companies have kept storing data abroad by making it “impersonal,” i.e. excluding names and other identifying information. A few companies have not taken any measures to comply with the law, hoping to remain unnoticed – or considering leaving the Russian market due to the legal complexities or market conditions.

The National System of Payment Cards

Additional amendments to the payment legislation were passed in May 2014. They opened the way to the development of a National System of Payment Cards (NSPC), operated by a central bank company called ‘NSPC.’
The development of the NSPC platform has been scheduled in three stages.

Stage 1 (completed in March 2015)
• The launch of an independent platform to operate local payments and clearing operations
• MasterCard, Visa and other international operators adhered to the NSPC, settling security deposits in accordance with the law. Their cards will continue to be issued and accepted in Russia with the processing traffic transferred to the NSPC platform.

Stage 2 (April-December 2015)
• The NSPC published its tariff policy. The fee structure is rather complicated, with some emphasis on premium cards. However, banks will not be charged for operational and clearing services until 31 March, 2016.
• Called “MIR” (“peace” in Russian), the national payment cards are expected to be issued by the end of 2015, complementing the cards already in use in Russia. MIR cards will integrate a new standard for secured ecommerce transactions.
• Pilot banks such as Moscow Credit Bank, VTB24, Russian Bank for Regional Development will be issuing the cards in October 2015.
• Initially, newly issued MIR cards will be accepted in Russia only. However, co-badging agreements with international operators will allow Russian cardholders to use MIR cards abroad, as well.

Stage 3: 2016 – 2018
New NSPC cards are scheduled for launch in Russia somewhere between 2016 and 2018, providing cardholders with wide card acceptance and various services, such as premium cards and related benefits.

• The Russian cards and payment instruments will be promoted internationally.
• Co-badged cards will be issued with international operators, allowing cardholders to use the cards both in Russia and internationally. NSPC has already signed agreements with American Express, JCB and MasterCard. Visa has not signed such an agreement yet.

According to NSPC statements, the MIR cards will be developed in “fair competition” with other card systems, in spite of some privileges provided by the law.

Expected consequences for foreign players and cardholders
International PSPs. As in the past, in order to provide processing services for transactions made in RUB, international PSPs should be integrated to Russian acquiring banks. In this scenario, they will be able to accept MIR cards. In addition, international PSPs should comply with the new requirements on personal data storage and processing – which cannot be enacted without technical and business consequences for them.
International e-merchants should not be affected, since co-badged cards will be used in the same way as the currently existing Visa or MasterCard cards.

Foreign cardholders should not be affected, since their Visa or MasterCard cards will be accepted in Russia as it was in the past.

About Elena Orlova:

Elena Orlova is an expert in e-payments in Russia and the managing partner at SunConsulting LLC. She has 15+ years experience in Operations and Finance for International Corporations and private companies in ecommerce, retail and services.

About Sun Consulting:

Sun Consulting provides international and local clients with legal advice and implementation of e-payments in Russia, as well as with high-quality accounting and financial management services for representative offices, limited liability companies and corporations. The company was established by the team of the former Naspers ecommerce division in Russia.

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Keywords: ecommerce, e-payments, Russia, Elena Orlova, Sun Consulting, international players, e-wallet, payment aggregators
Countries: World