Virtual wallets and online payment gateways in Colombia: administrative statements that open up opportunities for FinTech companies13/07/2018
Technology has become a vital aspect of our lives, it has changed the way we perceive and perform many of our regular activities as people keep opting for more practical solutions. This circumstance has been particularly witnessed in the financial world, as electronic payments have become an everyday activity.
As a consequence, and considering the demand for better payment solutions or more practical alternatives on money transferring and management, plenty of Financial Technology (or FinTech) companies have focused on providing virtual wallet services and online payment gateways, as they are some of the most simple modalities.
It is undeniable that Colombia has not been exempt to the exponential expansion of these services, as both FinTech services, virtual wallet services and online payment gateways, are currently being widely used in the country, even when their legal regulation is yet to be discussed and issued. That means FinTech companies providing the mentioned services are currently operating within the overall Colombian legal system, without having a clear particular regulation for the activities they perform, so they have to be particularly careful regarding falling within Colombian legal limits, and be alert to any upcoming applicable dispositions.
In the meantime, virtual wallets providers and online payment gateways providers must be well aware that Colombia’s Financial Superintendence has already addressed the provision of these services, establishing conditions so they can offer them while simultaneously avoiding performing illegal activities.
Regarding virtual wallets, Colombia’s Financial Superintendence has recognized its legality under the condition they are indeed providing a product or service, meaning they are not just receiving money from users just to eventually return it (with or without interests). In other words, the virtual wallets must provide users the possibility to perform activities with the money they are depositing in them.
For instance, in Colombia’s first virtual wallet named Nequi, its over 450.000 users are able to pay their DirectTV bills, recharge their cellphone or even pay in restaurants and stores by using Nequi in their phones. The provision of these services is what allows Nequi to legally collect money from the general public, just by providing their cellphone numbers.
In relation to online payment gateways, Colombia’s Financial Superintendence has explicitly recognized their operation in the country and its legality. However, even when online payment gateways are not under the Superintendence supervision (as they do not take in users money at any moment, serving as a mere intermediaries between buyers and sellers), the Financial Superintendence has stated that providers of this service must implement special tools for a particularly high protection for the users personal and financial data, and be well prepared for any possible cyber-attack scenario.
Now, Colombia’s Financial Superintendence statements are a direct recognition of the legality and support that some FinTech business models are enjoying right now. The administrative entity has even stated that anyone with an idea for a FinTech platform can directly present their project to the Colombia’s Financial Superintendence for a Fintech expert group to evaluate its legality and viability.
For all the stated above, it is safe to assume that even when a FinTech law is yet to be issued in Colombia, the current scenario allows FinTech companies to operate in the country within the law, as virtual wallet companies and online payment gateways companies have been doing it for years now.