KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Wednesday issued standards for unified Quick Response (QR) code to accelerate digitisation of retail payments.

“These standards are to be met for issuing of QR codes and accepting of payments through the same. This initiative is a part of SBP’s drive to promote inclusion, innovation, and modernisation of payment systems in the country,” the central bank said in a circular.

The issuance of a single QR code was earlier announced by SBP Governor Dr Reza Baqir in August 2021.

“With the issuance of a single country-wide QR code standard Pakistan joins the list of countries who have taken similar steps to promote low-cost digitisation of payment services, especially at the retail level,” said the SBP.

QR code-based payments are increasingly becoming popular around the world for being low-cost and easy to use via mobile applications. However, in Pakistan, QR codes that are being issued by financial institutions are not usually based on common industry standards and had limited interoperability due to which their acceptance and usage in the country is very low. Accordingly, the common QR code standards have been developed by an industry consultative group, formed by the SBP.

The standards are designed to be flexible to adapt to new and innovative use-cases, with data objects allocated for scheme, acquirers and SBP for future use.

For facilitating the issuance and adoption of QR code-based payments, the SBP has issued two variations: one for person-to-person (P2P) and the other for person-to-merchant (P2M) payments.

The P2P standard would be used by banks and financial institutions to generate personalised QR codes for their customers, using which they would be able to receive payments on their mobile apps.

Similarly, the P2M standard would be used for accepting and processing merchant-based payments, using mobile apps, on lines similar to card-based payment acceptance.

“All financial institutions offering digital payment services would be required to comply with the new requirements and ensure that mobile apps of all banks and other payment institutions in Pakistan can scan and process any QR code that is issued as per the new standard not later than June 30, 2022,” said the SBP.

The standards also promote the establishment of domestic payment schemes, which will provide efficient and cost-effective payment alternatives to the citizens of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2022

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