The other day I was re-reading a post from last October in Bank Innovation called The Case for More Visible Payments by Philip Ryan which highlighted an important point in the looming transformation of payments capabilities: transparency.

Much of the discussion in recent years about payments disruption has highlighted the potential benefit of new capabilities to displace the payment component of a commercial transaction to the background; simplifying the process, removing friction and emphasising the value-adding component of the transaction.

The case in point that is always cited is, of course, Uber. Recent coverage in Sydney of yet another round of outrage over Uber’s surge pricing has highlighted the brand risk associated with making payments ‘too invisible’ In the most recent spate of complaints, Uber customers have complained about fare increases of up to 800% over new year’s eve.

But Ryan’s article highlights the obvious risk of making these payments ‘too’ invisible, thus running the risk of creating uncertainty and a loss of trust.

This issue hasn’t received a huge amount of profile in the literature to date but, will, in my opinion, inevitably have to be addressed as a question of broader payments system policy. The point is that consumers need, at all times, to receive adequate understanding of the financial consequences of transactions.

Moreover, this issue has particular significance for the payments strategies of mutual banking organisations, where the emphasis on member benefit is even more pronounced.

These organisations have a long heritage in looking after the best interests of members.. any payment solutions they adopt will therefore need to be careful not to transgress the duty of care implicit in their value propositions.

This means simplifying the payment event, but also keeping the financial impact of any transaction transparently evident to the consumer.

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