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People’s Bank of China concerned about Alipay anti-cash promotion

Categories : Cash connects people
August 15, 2017
Tags : Cash restrictions, Central Bank, China, Mobile Payments
Alipay organised "cashless weeks" encouraging merchants to accept exclusively mobile payments, leaving consumers relying on cash behind.
Communication Team / Equipo de Comunicación

The People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has expressed its concerns following two initiatives launched by Ant Financial – the parent company that runs Chinese mobile payments platform Alipay. Earlier in August, the company launched two different “cashless weeks”, during which merchants from selected cities were strongly encouraged to exclusively accept Alipay, giving participating users a chance to win financial rewards ranging from 10 cents to $700.

Alipay is a mobile payment platform created by Alibaba group in 2004 and has recently become the world’s largest mobile payment app, overtaking PayPal and its Chinese competitor WeChat – a micro-messaging platform that also acts as payment instrument. Although Alipay is reserved for consumers owning a Chinese bank account, it counts over half a billion users. The participating companies were not forced to refuse cash during the promotion, but according to Fawan newspapers, some did so. About 10 million retailers took part in the campaign across the country, causing the People’s Bank of China to worry that this aggressive promotion of cash-free shopping might have lasting consequences on the yuan.

The central bank released a notice to its regional offices explaining that Alipay’s cashless action has affected the normal currency flow and created misunderstandings among the public. Moreover, the bank urged its local branches to rectify the matter and use appropriate actions to help restore financial stability. Before the cashless weeks launch, the PBoC also asked Ant Financial to carry out a “low-profile action” to avoid an undesired anti-cash campaign. The bank affirms that such challenges may arise again in the future as digital payments are set to become ever more popular in the country.

The central bank of China is not the first one to sound the alarm regarding anti-cash actions. In March 2016, the central bank of Sweden – a country that is also well ahead in the race towards cashless – warned commercial banks not to reduce cash services too fast to ensure a smooth transition and avoid the exclusion  of people relying on paper money. The purpose is to help consumers find alternative solutions instead of imposing a sudden ban on cash – as Alipay’s campaign almost did in several areas.