National Retail Payments Committee (NRPC)

The Bank has decided to establish a Committee dedicated to examining retail payment issues, called the National Retail Payments Committee or NRPC for short.

The purpose of this Committee, which is chaired by Director Tim Hermans, is to facilitate discussion between the retail payment stakeholders in Belgium with a view to identifying new trends and developments in this area that could benefit the functioning of the Belgian economy. Indeed, an efficient retail payments market can have a positive impact on all economic actors.

Among the themes addressed by the NRPC are, in particular:

  • efficiency and security of national and cross-border payment services and instruments;
  • availability and accessibility of cash;
  • acceptance of cash;
  • transparency and awareness regarding the usage of payment methods;
  • monitoring of technological developments (e.g. stablecoins, contactless payments, etc.);
  • monitoring of regulatory developments.

The NRPC is composed of members operating in different sectors that are directly involved in retail payments, including:

  • the National Bank, which chairs the Committee;
  • public institutions in the domains of finance, consumer protection, economy, administrative simplification, and treasury;
  • organisations representing the corporate and retail sector;
  • consumer organisations;
  • financial sector representatives;
  • financial market infrastructures (FMIs), payment schemes and systemic operators in the field of payments;
  • the cash-in-transit (CIT) sector.

The operating principles of the Committee are laid down in a Charter which members are required to adhere to.

The NRPC is to hold two or three plenary meetings per year. The first took place on 1 March 2021.

The Committee establishes ad hoc sub-groups dedicated to specific themes requiring more in-depth examination. During its first plenary meeting, the following four sub-groups were created:

Instant Payments

Three and a half years after their introduction, instant payments represent only a minor portion of credit transfers in Belgium (17 % of the volume of regular SEPA transfers at the end of 2020). The European Commission and the Eurosystem want instant payments to become the “new normal”.  To better understand the reasons for this low penetration of the Belgian payments market and to efficiently support the efforts to roll out this new payment instrument further, the National Bank, which chairs the Instant Payments sub-group, aims to develop a strategy with the other members outlining work areas with achievable, non-binding objectives (such as collecting information on the different barriers to the adoption of instant payments or conducting studies), according to a time schedule that will allow for prioritisation of the topics for discussion.

Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs)

In October 2020, the Eurosystem identified various future scenarios in which the issuance of a digital euro as a central bank digital currency (CBDC) would be recommended or necessary. Examples of these future scenarios include a sharp decline in the use of cash as a means of payment, a substantial increase in the use of unregulated means of payment, resulting in a significant risk to financial stability and consumer protection, or a considerable rise in the use of digital currencies issued by foreign central banks, which undermines the position of the euro.

The purpose of this sub-group of the NRPC is to inform and consult the different stakeholders and – should the Eurosystem decide to further analyse the digital euro and/or develop prototypes – involve them in the needs assessment.

Cash

The Cash sub-group will focus primarily on two themes, namely the legal tender status and the accessibility of cash.

One of the objectives of this sub-group is to establish a consensus on the use and acceptance of cash in Belgium with all stakeholders. In this context, the sub-group will also follow the work of the European Commission’s Euro Legal Tender Expert Group (ELTEG) and assess the implications of the decisions taken at national level.

In addition, it will assess cash accessibility in Belgium using a model developed by the National Bank. Both the current situation and the expected developments will be taken into consideration.  

Coins

Payment habits in our country have undergone several significant shifts towards more electronic payments, not least during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The government’s task is to ensure that these shifts are reflected as best as possible in the domestic payment facilities, without however undermining the basic right to cash payments.

The General Administration of Treasury, which is responsible for issuing and financing coins, would like to collaborate with the members of this working group to examine possibilities to further develop this coordinating role for coin payments in the most efficient way possible.

The amount of coins needed in our country, the ways in which the amount currently in circulation can be used optimally, the estimation of the future evolution of coin needs and the assessment of the mandatory rounding measure for 1 and 2 euro cents will guide the discussions and information-sharing within the working group.