A universal QR code which allows consumers to scan and transfer funds from as many as 27 e-payment apps was launched yesterday, marking a significant step in Singapore's drive to build a national cashless system.
Dubbed SGQR and described as the world's first unified payment QR code, the system will allow customers to choose from a host of e-payment solutions such as GrabPay, Dash and Nets, and enable businesses to accept them.
Meanwhile, merchants will also be freed from the chore of displaying multiple QR codes.
Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) board member Ong Ye Kung, who is also Education Minister, announced this yesterday, saying that the last few jigsaw pieces are finally coming together to help Singapore build its national cashless system.
Nets was recently appointed the single touchpoint to supply a unified system at hawker centres, canteens and coffee shops that can accept e-payments from 20 sources.
Mr Ong also said that Fast, an instant online interbank funds transfer system, will be opened to non-bank players such as Grab and Razer to allow consumers to transfer funds among more e-wallets.
Meanwhile, SGQR gives some momentum to the cashless push.
Its technical specifications were unveiled in November last year. After the 27 payment companies worked the specifications into their payment systems, SGQR is now ready for commercial use.
Announcing that SGQR will be rolled out later this month, Mr Ong said: "QR code payments have been growing, and many cash-intensive merchants, such as hawkers, are accepting them. But every scheme... all issue their own QR code. This causes confusion."
The authorities foresaw the problem a year ago, which led to the development of SGQR. It is the work of an industry task force co-led by MAS and the Info-communications Media Development Authority.
The move follows Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call at last year's National Day Rally for an interoperable e-payment system in Singapore that is simple to use.
The 27 supporting e-payment schemes include PayNow, Nets, GrabPay, Singtel Dash, AliPay, American Express, Visa, Mastercard, ez-link, fave, DBS PayLah!, OCBC Pay AnyOne, UOB Mighty, and UnionPay.
Thousands of QR codes will be replaced with SGQR labels starting this month, with the new universal sticker showing the QR payment options that the merchant accepts.
The replacement exercise, beginning with merchants in the Central Business District, will be completed over the next six months.
Supporting the launch of SGQR, Ms Sherry See, 37, owner of Utopia Apparels in Kampong Glam, said: "My shop counter, which currently displays the GrabPay and AliPay QR codes, will be cleaner."
Still, not all merchants would have signed up with all 27 e-payment companies even if the code on the displayed sticker is theoretically compatible.
Toast Box's regional general manager Vincent Lim said that working with all the players would mean more work in reconciling accounts at the end of the business day.
"We work only with the bigger players as they would have accounted for most of the consumers out there," said Mr Lim.
The initiative fronted by Nets to bring a unified e-payment system to hawker centres, coffee shops and canteens will also support SGQR.
Now, some 70 per cent of hawker transactions are done using cash. Conversely, 70 per cent of transactions at malls are already cashless.