SINGAPORE - Nets has been appointed to unify the fragmented e-payment landscape here and bring cashless payments to all 12,000 stalls at hawker centres, canteens and coffee shops in Singapore.
As Singapore's first "master acquirer", Nets will supply hawkers with systems to accept e-payments and settle accounts with the hawkers, marking the most significant step yet in the nation's move to become cashless in places where cash is now king.
Nets will also be the only party to reconcile accounts, and accommodate the entire range of payment schemes on its master network, addressing most of the obstacles cited by hawkers in switching to cashless payments. .
In Singapore, about 40 per cent of dining occasions take place at coffee shops, hawker centres and canteens.
The appointment of Nets follows a call for collaboration that concluded in May this year, as reported by The Straits Times last month. A call for collaboration is similar to a government tender, but it does not spell out technical specifications.
Mr Ted Tan, deputy chief executive officer of Enterprise Singapore, said in a statement on Wednesday (Sept 12): "With technology becoming such an integral part of our urban lifestyles, the Government is enhancing the dining experience by providing customers with a unified e-payment solution where transactions can be made easily, quickly and securely. Merchants too, will benefit, as they will now have a cost-effective and productive model to accept and process e-payments from customers and suppliers."
Cash currently rules at hawker stalls. And even when the stalls accept cashless payments, they are faced with a jumble of payment systems that do not talk to one another, thus requiring customers to carry multiple cards or e-wallets. The arrangement is inconvenient for consumers and costly for businesses, resulting in both preferring cash.
However, Enterprise Singapore, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Housing Board joined hands to address the issue at all hawker stalls under NEA, HDB and JTC Corporation, and issued the call for collaboration. 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.
Under the initiative by these agencies, consumers will be able to use some 20 payment schemes, which includes the ez-link transport cards and concession cards and the Nets FlashPay cards.
The schemes will be rolled out progressively in two phases. The first batch of 10 payment schemes will go live by the end of this year. By August 2019, customers dining at coffee shops, hawker centres and industrial canteens can choose from all 20 payment schemes through unified touchpoints.
Merchants will be given a terminal for card payments and the national QR code payment standard, dubbed SGQR, to accept and process transactions from the 20 payment schemes.
The all-in-one e-payment terminals, which can read contactless and chip-based cards, and process QR code payments, will also be rented to hawkers at no charge for the first three years after they sign up with Nets.
Transaction fees of 0.5 per cent will be borne by the Government during the period. Stalls have until August 2020 to apply for the fee waivers.
Nets said that it has not decided what the charges would be after the three years.
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.