Facebook-owned WhatsApp Looks to Launch Digital Payments in Indonesia

Reuters reported that they had learned of this development from anonymous sources on Aug. 20. According to the report, WhatsApp is currently negotiating with transportation booking service Go-Jek, mobile payments provider DANA, fintech startup OVO and state-owned Bank Mandiri.

Bank Mindri operates a digital wallet service, per the report.

Facebook-owned messaging service, WhatsApp, is purportedly in preliminary talks with multiple digital payments firms as well as a state-owned bank to launch digital payment services in Indonesia.

WhatsApp’s plan for Indonesia is to support payments through digital wallets in the region, according to Reuters’ sources. The report further speculates that Facebook’s dealings in Indonesia could become a template that they later use to dodge local regulations, pertaining to bans on foreign digital wallets.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that WhatsApp was negotiating with financial partners Indonesia, but declined to provide specifics:

“WhatsApp is in conversations with financial partners in Indonesia about payments, however the discussions are in early stages and we do not have anything further to share at this stage.”

However, the sources reportedly said that Facebook’s deal with the three payments firms will be finalized imminently. The launch of these services is, however,  not expected until 2020, since WhatsApp is looking to launch in India at the same time or sooner, per the sources. According to the report, Facebook is still waiting on regulatory approval from India before they can launch WhatsApp-based payments.

Libra in WeChat

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Facebook intends to integrate its crypto wallet service, Calibra, into WhatsApp and all of its platforms. Calibra would host Facebook’s planned stablecoin, Libra. However, Calibra will not be available in India, or any countries with a ban on cryptocurrency. A Calibra spokesperson commented on this in April, saying:

“The libra blockchain will be global, but it will be up to custodial wallet providers to determine where they will and will not operate. Calibra won’t be available in U.S.-sanctioned countries or countries that ban cryptocurrencies.”

Facebook Libra Already Facing an EU Antitrust Probe

Facebook is reportedly already under investigation by the EU over antitrust issues related to its Libra cryptocurrency project.

A document seen by Bloomberg indicates that the European Commission is “currently investigating potential anti-competitive behavior” by the Libra Association. The report describes the document as a questionnaire suggesting the commission is concerned that Facebook’s planned digital payment system could unfairly lock out competitors.

The governance structure and membership of the Libra Association is apparently under scrutiny. A number of major companies including Mastercard and Visa have already signed loose agreements to partner with the Libra Association on the project.

The European Commission is also concerned that Libra could give rise to “possible competition restrictions” on the use of information including user data. It’s also looking at the possible integration of apps into Facebook services such as WhatsApp and Messenger that use Libra.

This type of questionnaire is generally issued early on EU information-gathering inquiries, says Bloomberg..

The European Commission is the executive arm of the EU, which proposes and enforces legislation, and implements policies and the budget. Bloomberg said the commission and Facebook both would not comment on the document.

Facebook has faced a wave of concern from the world’s regulators over its digital currency plans. Lawmakers in the U.S. have even called for the project to be stopped until the issues can be examined and discussed.

A delegation of U.S. lawmakers led by Congresswoman Maxine Waters is set to discuss Libra with the Swiss data privacy chief when it visits the country this week.

With the Libra Association incorporated in Switzerland, Facebook has said it expects the Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner to be its data privacy regulator. However, the commissioner, Adrian Lobsiger, has previously said Facebook has not in fact been in touch about the project and has called for more information.

As per a Reuters report on Wednesday, Lobsiger’s office said yesterday it expects to be provided specific details on Libra by the end of this month.

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