Singapore, Thailand reveal separate fast payment QR code schemes


The Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) Payments Council, an association of 20 industry leaders from the banking, payments and business sector, has endorsed specification for a common Singapore Quick Response (QR) Code.

The new ‘SG QR’ code will accept electronic payments by both domestic and international payment schemes, e-wallets, and banks, MAS said. 

Invented and popularised in Japan, QR codes are a matrix, or two-dimensional, barcode made up of small black squares resembling large pixels. Each QR code is capable of holding upwards up to 300 times more data than a traditional one-dimensional code.

The SG QR was developed by an industry taskforce co-led by MAS and Infocomm Media Development Authority – a statutory board of the Singapore government which regulates ICT and media.

A “first of its kind globally”, the SG QR includes protocols customised for the local market, building on the QR specifications of EMVCo, a consortium of international payment schemes.

EMVCo, an international body which supports cross-border interoperability and secure payment transactions, sets standards that are utilised internationally by banks, merchants, processors, and vendors.

“The SG QR optimises the number of e-payment schemes it contains by improving the efficiency of processing merchant-relevant data,” MAS said in a release.

Sopnendu Mohanty, MAS’ chief fintech officer, said: “the SG QR is an unprecedented national initiative supported by the industry to provide consumers and merchants with a seamless and streamlined e-payment experience.”

Mohanty expects the SG QR to be adopted and deployed by payment services providers in Singapore through 2018.

Payment service providers are currently developing a governance process for multiple payment schemes to be consolidated into SG QR, including NETS QR and Singtel Dash QR.

In a separate scheme, the Bank of Thailand has announced the release of the Thai QR code standard for e-Payments within the country.

The Thai QR will allow five of the country’s major banking institutions “to step out of the regulatory sandbox” and offer the QR payment service to general public.

Kasikornbank, Siam Commercial Bank, Krungthai Bank, Bangkok Bank, and Government Saving Bank – the country’s five largest banking institutions – will be permitted to provide QR code payment services through Thailand’s PromptPay system, which allows customers to link their Thai national ID or mobile phone number with their bank accounts to receive and transfer payments.

Customers will be able to make fast payments using their participating banks’ mobile app to scan the merchant’s QR code.

“The QR code payment is suitable for merchants having basic payment transactions, such as food stalls, small and medium shops, fresh market, as well as taxi and motorcycle taxi,” BOT said.

The Central bank expects to expand the QR payments scheme to other service and fund providers, including credit card companies, “in the near future”.

QR-based payments remain popular throughout Asia, despite their relative obscurity in the Western world. According to one estimate, upwards of $1.65 trillion in transactions were made using QR codes within the APAC region in 2016.