11.22.17 Your morning briefing
The information you need to start your day, from PaymentsSource and around the Web:
End of net neutrality nears: Ajit Pai, FCC chairman, has announced a plan to remove regulations designed to govern equal access to the internet, commonly called net neutrality. The New York Times reports the FCC will vote on Dec. 14 on Pai's proposal, which is expected to pass 3-to-2 along party lines. The Times also reports many companies will likely sue to keep the new rules from taking hold. The existing rules, put in place during the Obama Administration, forbid internet service providers from blocking or slowing loading times for access to websites, or charging special fees for higher-quality internet service. Removing these restrictions could create "lanes" for internet access, a concept that many technology startups (including fintechs such as Dwolla) oppose, contending these "fast and slow" lanes would place them at a disadvantage to larger companies that can afford the fees. But larger companies have also expressed support for net neutrality. The New York Times reports Google and Amazon are likely to lobby hard against the end of net neutrality on the grounds it would give telecom companies an unfair competitive advantage. Larger payment companies such as Stripe and PayPal have also expressed support for net neutrality in the past as a way for smaller companies to build and scale quickly. Pai's counter argument, which has the support of primarily Republican members of Congress such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R, Texas), is the internet will be "more open" with less government regulation, and the internet is not designed to be governed as a utility.
Lawsky joins Ripple's board: Ripple, which has been using its blockchain technology to build partnerships to boost financial services technology such as cross-border digital payments, has appointed Benjamin Lawsky to its board of directors and added Ron Will as chief financial officer. Lawsky has more than 20 years experience in government, and is most recently known as the architect of the BitLicense, a New York state regulation that's considered one of the early government moves to regulate cryptocurrency, thus giving it more legitimacy in the eyes of investors. Lawsky was also New York state's superintendent of financial services from 2011 to 2015, regulating all New York chartered banks and U.S. subsidiaries of foreign banks in New York. Will has served as a financial executive and investment banker for more than two dozen years.
Can digital currency rescue Zimbabwe? Zimbabwe faces an uncertain future following the end of authoritarian President Robert Mugabe's 37-year rule. Digital currency Dash has entered a partnership with KuvaCash in an attempt to solve inflation and currency devaluation issues through a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency that's available to any person with a phone-number-based messaging system. The companies hope consumers can avoid long lines and large fees at banks to access cash that has an uncertain value. Zimbabwe's government has issued notes pegged to the U.S. dollar to stem the crisis, but that has not appeared to work, as volatility and long lines at banks remain. "I have been advocating for quite some time the potential benefits Dash can provide to economies with less stable currencies, and Zimbabwe seems a prime location for these benefits. This project in particular is well-researched with value propositions, branding, and go-to-market strategies tailored to the local market," said Ryan Taylor, CEO of Dash, in a release.
Boku aims to go public: Carrier billing company Boku, which is expanding in Europe, has listed on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market (AIM), a division of the London Exchange that offers a more flexible regulatory environment for smaller startups. Boku, which supports payments via charges added to the user's mobile phone bill, raised about $55 million with a market capitalization of about $136 million. Jon Prideaux, Boku's CEO, told London's City AM the IPO would position the company to accelerate its growth plans. In addition to its move into European markets, the San Francisco-based Boku has also collaborated with Microsoft to extend carrier billing into new markets.
'Mai' P-to-P scammer strikes again: A Los Angeles consumer has been victimized by a scammer who uses Venmo swindle victims. The Verge reports the victim, who it identified as Avinash, initially purchased two iPhone X handsets on spec. He then listed them on Facebook Marketplace, finding one buyer named Andy Mai who offered to buy the phones at $1,700 each. Avinash saw $3,400 in his account, handed over the phones to an "associate" of Mai at a pizza parlor, then received an email saying the funds had been withdrawn. The Verge reports that's because the funds were probably taken from a stolen card or hacked account—in effect giving the crook two iPhone X's for free. Venmo reversed the charges to the original account holders, though Avinash was short the $2,000 he paid for the phones. "Andy Mai" has struck before, also in Los Angeles, when a person was similarly duped into "selling" film equipment in July, and The Verge found some thefts go back as far as 2014.
From the Web
Alibaba Sees Growth in The Stores
Fox Business | Tue Nov 21, 2017 - E-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is making another big bet on brick-and-mortar, saying it will pay $2.88 billion for a 36% stake in China's second-largest big-box retailer, Sun Art Retail Group Ltd. Alibaba, which runs the world's largest online shopping operation, sees traditional retail venues as a way to expand its reach into fresh foods while also creating new demand for its Alipay mobile-payment business and its logistics services.
Uber paid hackers to cover up massive data breach
Reuters | Wed Nov 22, 2017 - Uber Technologies Inc paid hackers $100,000 to keep secret a massive breach last year that exposed the personal information of about 57 million accounts of the ride-service provider, the company said on Tuesday. Discovery of the U.S. company’s cover-up of the incident resulted in the firing of two employees responsible for its response to the hack, said Dara Khosrowshahi, who replaced co-founder Travis Kalanick as CEO in August.
Equifax breach already taking a toll on consumers
Chicago Tribune | Tue Nov 21, 2017 - The scenario that personal finance and credit experts feared most about the heist of consumer data from Equifax may already be underway. Criminals are using the stolen information to apply for mortgages, credit cards and student loans, they’re tapping into bank debit accounts, filing insurance claims and racking up substantial debts, according to a major new class-action suit. The suit pulls together dozens of individual complaints from consumers in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. It seems cybercriminals aren’t wasting time using the Social Security numbers, credit card accounts, driver’s license numbers and other sensitive personal information they siphoned out of the credit bureau’s reputedly secure databases on 145.5 million Americans.
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PayPal pushes 'contextual commerce' through Messenger invoices
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