12.22.17 Your morning briefing

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A postponement for prepaid: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Thursday that it will delay implementation of its prepaid rule and will consider new changes to the regulation before it goes into effect. Moments after the CFPB had said it would reopen its mortgage disclosure rule earlier in the day, the CFPB released a statement announcing that the effective date for the prepaid rule — set for April 1, 2018 — would similarly be scrapped. The agency said it would announce changes after January 1 to amend the prepaid rule. The announcement was a further sign that acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney will seek to overhaul rules that had been issued under former CFPB Director Richard Cordray. The prepaid rule had been finalized in 2016, but implementation had already been delayed twice under Cordray.

Walmart's Go: Walmart and Amazon are going toe to toe to modernize how people buy and retrieve products, so it makes sense that Walmart would test a "no cashier" store. Axios reports Walmart's concept is called "Project Kepler" and will use computer vision to detect which products consumers are holding when they leave the store, and then charge their Walmart e-commerce accounts. Walmart is also working on personalized shopping experiences for "busy New York moms" trough its Code 8 innovation startup. Amazon Go's test of a similar concept caused a lot of buzz early this year, particularly since traditional retailers view anything Amazon does as a potential threat. But the path to a cashierless store has not been smooth. Amazon is working on problems with the underlying technology, and there is a general concern about the ability of in-store sensing technology to handle a large volume of shoppers, though it is apparently able to stop people from dressing in costumes to try to steal items. Cashierless stores are also drawing attention from Standard Cognition, a technology startup that wants to sell the concept to brick and mortar retailers.

Face food: With the deployment of AI-based ordering kiosks, CaliBurger will never forget a customer's face. The burger chain is working with NEC Corp. of America to pilot a kiosk that uses facial recognition to identify customers for loyalty and (eventually) payments. "Face-based loyalty significantly reduces the friction associated with loyalty program registration and use; further, it enables a restaurant chain like CaliBurger to provide a customized, one-on-one interactive experience at the ordering kiosk," said John Miller, chairman and CEO of Cali Group, in a press release. If the pilot at Cali's Pasadena location is successful, the chain plans to deploy the system globally in 2018, when it will enable facial recognition for payments.

Nothing makes sense anymore: Want to triple your company's value overnight? Just call yourself a blockchain company — even if you sell iced tea. Long Island Iced Tea Corp. has rebranded itself as Long Blockchain Corp., prompting a 200% rise in its stock price, Ars Technica reports. There seems to be at least some substance to the change; the company announced in a Thursday press release that it would shift its corporate focus to "the exploration and investment in opportunities … of blockchain technology." Ars Technica notes that the news is reminiscent of companies adding ".com" to their names in the late 1990s, a move that could reliably prompt a surge in the companies' stock prices. And Long Blockchain isn't even the first soft drink company to see this effect — this week, a fruit juice company called Future FinTech (formerly SkyPeople Fruit Juice) saw a 200% gain on rumors that it would get involved in blockchain and bitcoin, CNBC reported on Tuesday. The boost is likely to be short-lived; TechCrunch reports that the value of bitcoin — and nearly every other major cryptocurrency — crashed hard Friday morning.

Japan to South Korea in an instant: A network of Japanese and South Korean banks is testing a service that uses the Ripple network to power real-time cross-border fund transfers. The Japan Bank Consortium, an SBI Ripple Asia-supported organization which counts 61 banks in Japan as members, will team with Woori Bank and Shinhan Bank, two of South Korea's largest financial institutions, reports Finextra. The Japanese banks will use Ripple's xCurrent to settle transactions between the two countries. The pilot is part of a strategy to modernize payment systems in both countries, with cross-border payments being a vital part of that since South Korea is Japan's third-largest trading partner. The Japanese bank consortium has also created a virtual currency and blockchain working group to research use cases for alternative assets to bring further flexibility to cross-border payments. Ripple has powered similar projects in other parts of the world recently, including a collaboration between Singapore and UAE.

From the Web

Could Europe’s Uber ruling affect the future of the gig economy?
The Washington Post | Thu Dec 21, 2017 - Uber isn't merely a digital middleman linking passengers and drivers, but rather an actual transportation service, the European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday, in a pivotal move that may spill over into the broader ride-hailing industry and the future of the on-demand economy. The decision opens the door for European cities to impose stricter regulations on the ride-hailing company as a taxi operator. That means Uber will have to abandon services, such as UberPop, that use nonprofessional drivers and instead abide by local rules governing taxis.

High-tech lenders target the decades-old store credit card
Reuters | Fri Dec 22, 2017 - The once-hot online lending industry has been battered by scandal and losses since last year, but one of the oldest forms of lending - store credit - is increasingly attracting tech companies aiming to supplant a retailer’s credit card. One such lender, San Francisco startup Affirm, is attracting investment and large customers by using a new approach to underwriting that allows it to approve more borrowers than traditional store credit cards.

Fed Study Finds Continued Growth in Credit-Card Payments
Fox Business | Thu Dec 21, 2017 - Americans increasingly relied on credit cards to make payments in 2016, and made more of those payments remotely, according to new data the Federal Reserve released Thursday. The number of credit-card payments grew 10.2% last year, to 37.3 billion, compared with an annual growth rate of 8.1% over the previous three years. The Fed attributed the increase in part to "continued strong growth" in the number of remote payments, such as online shopping and bill paying, which represented 22.2% of all general-purpose credit- and debit-card payments. Remote payments increased 1.5% from 2015, the Fed said. By value, remote payments represented 44% of all general-purpose card payments.

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