People’s Daily article calls for mobile payments companies to tighten consumer protection measures
People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece, on Friday published an article calling for mobile payments providers to strengthen security measures to help users get back their funds if they mistakenly transfer money to the wrong account or send an incorrect sum.
“The cashless society has quietly arrived, and paying by QR code or transferring money via WeChat or Alipay, has brought great convenience to everyone,” the opinion piece said.
“But if users have ‘butter fingers’, ‘misclick’ or accidentally input the wrong information, then payment platforms need to have enough measures to help users rectify their mistake and recoup their losses. Payment platforms still have much to do in terms of tightening the ‘safety valve’ in the payments process.”
China has become a global leader in mobile payments, with an estimated 890 million users and a 92.4 per cent penetration rate among internet users in the country, according to a report on China’s third party mobile payments by market research firm Ipsos.
The mobile payments market is dominated by Tencent’s WeChat Pay and Alibaba-backed Alipay. Together, these two payments services have a combined market share of over 90 per cent, according to consultancy firm Analysys. Alipay and WeChat Pay users can make peer-to-peer transactions, send “virtual red packets” containing cash gifts, and make payment for services online as well as offline in retail stores and merchants.
The People’s Daily piece referenced a high-profile ‘wrong transfer’ case last month, involving a WeChat user surnamed Huang.
Huang had planned to transfer over 80,000 yuan (US$11,700) via WeChat to a cousin, but accidentally sent the money to a contact who had the same name instead. The contact then blocked him after receiving the transfer and WeChat customer service told Huang that they were unable to assist him in retrieving the funds as that would invade user privacy. The money was eventually returned by the contact after the incident received widespread attention in the press and social media.
The People’s Daily piece went on to say that protecting the financial assets of users is the responsibility of these payment organisations. In the case of transactions that are of large value, platforms should “do their utmost to send notifications and strengthen the verification process for money transfers”, and could even include an option to delay the transfer by between 2 to 4 hours so that if there is any mistake, users can recall the transaction to prevent financial loss.
When reached for comment, a Tencent spokesman redirected the Post to a media statement dated July 16, where it addressed the incident referenced in the opinion article.
In the media statement, Tencent emphasised that WeChat already has several mechanisms in place, including displaying partially masked real-name information to users when they are making a transfer and constant reminders for the user to verify recipient information before making a transfer.
It also said that in the event of an accidental transfer, in which the recipient is not willing to return the money, users should attempt to resolve the dispute using legal channels and Tencent will fully cooperate with authorities to investigate and gather evidence.
Ant Financial, Alibaba’s financial arm which operates Alipay, did not immediately provide a response to the opinion piece. Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.
The opinion piece also suggested that insurance firms could also consider providing new types of insurances for such mistaken transfers, so that in the event of an accident, appropriate compensation can be made to help recoup some loss.
It continued by saying that many internet companies today are moving quickly to expand their markets and get ahead, but as a result they have lost sight of placing user experience at the centre of what they do.
“Don’t forget about safety during rapid expansion. Grasping the balance between efficiency and responsibility, innovation and regulation is necessary to achieve long-term growth,” it said.