Hawkers to get three-year fee waiver for e-payments

Hawker Christopher Lau with a customer making payment using the Nets QR code at his bakery stall at Old Airport Road Food Centre. Mr Lau's stall has three QR codes to accept payments from three different e-wallets. He says he is looking forward to Ne
Hawker Christopher Lau with a customer making payment using the Nets QR code at his bakery stall at Old Airport Road Food Centre. Mr Lau's stall has three QR codes to accept payments from three different e-wallets. He says he is looking forward to Nets' unified e-payment system to cut down on the hassle.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Mr Lim Heng, who sells hor fun at Old Airport Road Food Centre, says he sees the need to go cashless if that is the future. Nets will now be the single touchpoint for about 20 payment schemes at hawker centres, canteens and coffee shops.
Mr Lim Heng, who sells hor fun at Old Airport Road Food Centre, says he sees the need to go cashless if that is the future. Nets will now be the single touchpoint for about 20 payment schemes at hawker centres, canteens and coffee shops.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

To qualify, they have to sign up for Nets-run unified cashless scheme before August 2020

Put up on the counter of Mr Christopher Lau's bakery stall at Old Airport Road Food Centre are three QR codes to accept payments from three different e-wallets: PayLah, Nets and Fave.

The 65-year-old hawker looks forward to having a neater solution. He has no counter space for more QR codes or payment terminals.

"It is also a hassle to manage three settlement accounts with the three e-payment firms," he told The Straits Times in Mandarin.

These pain points, and more, will now be addressed by Nets, which is owned by DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank.

The three-decade-old e-payment firm has just been appointed by the Government as the "master acquirer" to bring e-payments to all 12,000 stalls at hawker centres, canteens and coffee shops in Singapore with a single, unified system.

Nets will now be the single touchpoint for about 20 payment schemes, including e-wallets such as Singtel Dash and GrabPay, transport cards such as ez-link and Nets FlashPay, and Visa and Mastercard credit cards.

Nets is the only party to reconcile accounts, removing the hassle of dealing with different e-payment firms to receive payments.

 
 
 
 

Payments to merchants will be settled within one business day for transactions made before 11pm.

Transactions made via American Express, Mastercard and Visa will be credited within two days after the close of the business day.

Transaction fees of 0.5 per cent will be borne by the Government for the first three years after hawkers have signed up with Nets.

The all-in-one Nets e-payment terminals - which can read contactless and chip-based cards, and process QR code payments - will also be rented to hawkers for no charge for the first three years.

In announcing Nets' appointment yesterday, Mr Ted Tan, deputy chief executive of Enterprise Singapore, said hawkers will benefit from a "cost-effective and productive model" to accept and process e-payments from customers and suppliers.

Hawkers have to sign up before August 2020 to get the three-year fee waiver. Nets said it has not decided what the charges will be after the three years.

Mr Lau said three years is a long time to benefit from the freebies. "I can decide after three years if I want to pay the fees," he said.

Mr Lim Heng, 60, who sells hor fun at Old Airport Road Food Centre, said: "If the future is cashless, I better move with the times."

Nets' appointment comes after Enterprise Singapore, the National Environment Agency and the Housing Board issued a call for collaboration that ended in May.

This came on the heels of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call in his National Day Rally speech last year to unify e-payment systems.

Mr Benson Low, 55, who sells laksa and prawn mee at Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre, said more suppliers must also go cashless. "Many hawkers prefer to accept cash as they need to pay their suppliers in cash," he said.

This prompted Mr James Lloyd, consultancy firm EY's Asia-Pacific fintech leader, to suggest that the Government start a similar initiative for hawkers' suppliers.

"Ideally, you want the whole supply chain operating on the same payment flow," he said.

However, he also acknowledged that changing longstanding hawker behaviour will not be easy.

"Settlement on the next business day is still no match for the immediacy of cash."

Mr Lin Yih, director of smart-card systems developer Digital Applied Research and Technology, said effort must be made to make sure the unified system works at all times. "If transactions do not go through, people's faith in the system will be affected and it will be hard to rebuild trust later," he said.


The schemes and benefits

What are the payment schemes that will be accepted?

By the end of the year, the following will go live on Nets' master network:

  • Concession cards for the elderly and students issued by the Land Transport Authority's Transit Link
  • ez-link cards
  • Nets cards issued by banks
  • Nets FlashPay cards
  • American Express, Visa, Mastercard and UnionPay credit cards
  • WeChat Pay
  • Liquid Pay

By end-August next year, these payment schemes will go live:

  • Singtel Dash
  • GrabPay
  • Alipay
  • Active Wallet
  • EZi Wallet
  • BevEat
  • iAPPS
  • Honestbee
  • Qixiang Technology
  • Smart Gateway

What are the benefits for hawkers?

A national QR code payment standard, dubbed SGQR, is all that hawkers need to display to accept and process transactions from the 20 payment schemes.

Nets is the only party to reconcile accounts, doing away with the hassle of dealing with different e-payment firms to receive payments.

Payments to merchants will be settled in one business day for transactions that are made before 11pm.

Transactions made via American Express, Mastercard and Visa will be credited in two days after the close of the business day.

Transaction fees of 0.5 per cent will be borne by the Government for the first three years after hawkers sign up with Nets.

The all-in-one Nets e-payment terminals - which can read contactless and chip-based cards, and process QR code payments - will be rented to hawkers free of charge for the first three years.

Hawkers have to sign up before August 2020 to get the three-year fee waiver. Nets said it has not decided what the charges will be after the three years.

What are the benefits for consumers?

They need not carry multiple cards or download multiple e-wallets, which is the case today as few hawkers accept more than one e-payment mode.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2018, with the headline 'Hawkers to get three-year fee waiver for e-payments'. Print Edition | Subscribe