National Retail Payments Committee (NRPC)
A few years ago, the Bank decided to establish a committee dedicated to examining retail payment issues, called the National Retail Payments Committee or NRPC for short.
The purpose of the committee, which is chaired by Director Tim Hermans, is to facilitate discussion between retail payment stakeholders with a view to identifying trends and developments that could contribute to the better functioning of the Belgian economy. Indeed, an efficient retail payments market is beneficial for all economic agents.
The NRPC focuses in particular on the following areas:
- the efficiency and security of national and cross-border payment services and instruments;
- the availability and accessibility of cash;
- the acceptance of cash;
- the transparency and awareness of payment methods;
- technological developments (e.g. stablecoins, contactless payment methods, etc.); and
- regulatory developments.
The members of the NRPC are active in the various sectors directly involved in retail payments and include:
- the National Bank of Belgium, which chairs the committee;
- public institutions for administrative simplification and the General Administration of Treasury;
- organisations representing the business and retail sectors;
- consumer protection organisations;
- financial sector representatives;
- financial market infrastructures (FMIs), payment schemes and systemic operators in the field of payments;
- representatives of the cash-in-transit (CIT) sector.
The terms of reference of the committee are laid down in a charter to which members are required to adhere.
The NRPC holds one or two plenary meetings per year.
The committee can establish ad hoc working groups to examine specific topics requiring more in-depth study. At its first plenary meeting, the following four working groups were created.
Three and a half years after being introduced, instant payments represented only a minor share of transfers in Belgium (17% of SEPA transfers at the end of 2020). Nonetheless, the European Commission and the Eurosystem aim to have instant payments become the “new normal”. To better understand the reasons for this low penetration of the Belgian payments market and to efficiently support the efforts for the further roll-out of the new payment tool, the National Bank, which chairs this working group, aims to develop a strategy with the other members outlining focus areas with achievable, non-binding objectives (such as the collection of information on barriers to the adoption of instant payments and the conduct of studies), in accordance with a schedule that allows for the prioritisation of topics.
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 included 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, and a considerable rise in the use of digital currencies issued by foreign central banks, thereby undermining the position of the euro.
The purpose of this subcommittee is to inform and consult with the various stakeholders and – should the Eurosystem decide to further analyse the digital euro and/or develop prototypes – involve them in the needs assessment.
This working group will focus primarily on two issues, namely legal tender status and the accessibility of cash.
One of its objectives is to establish a consensus on the use and acceptance of cash in Belgium with all stakeholders. In this context, it will closely follow the work of the European Commission’s Euro Legal Tender Expert Group (ELTEG) and assess the implications of the decisions taken for Belgium.
In addition, it will study the accessibility of cash in Belgium using a model developed by the National Bank. Both the current situation and expected developments will be examined.
Electronic payments are becoming increasingly common in Belgium. This was particularly the case during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government is responsible for ensuring that domestic payment infrastructure reflects this shift, without however undermining the basic right to make payments in cash.
The General Administration of Treasury, which is responsible for issuing and financing coins, plans to work with the members of this working group to
examine possibilities for the further development of a coordinating role for coin payments, in the most efficient way possible.
Discussions and information sharing within the group will focus on the amount of coins needed in the country, the ways in which the amount currently in circulation can be optimally used, the estimation of future coin needs and the mandatory rounding technique for one and two euro cent coins.