There are two ways to access a payment system: either directly - by plugging directly in to a payment system; or indirectly - by paying to use the direct access of another organisation (known as a sponsor bank or indirect access provider). 

Whichever route people choose, we would like everybody who wants access to have enough information available to help them decide what they need.

We believe that fair, open and more transparent access to payment systems is essential if we are to create effective competition and innovation in the payments market. 

What we have done to improve direct access

In the run up to our launch, many stakeholders told us that direct access requirements were not clear or fair and may even be restricting some organisations from directly participating in payment systems.

Acting on these concerns, we took a number of steps. In particular we created an Access Rule and a Reporting Rule.

With our Access Rule we required operators to publish fair, open and risk based criteria for access, effective from 30 June 2015.

And a Reporting Rule means that operators will, as of 31 July 2015, have to report to us every year on how these criteria are working. 

What we have done to improve indirect access

Similar to what we heard about direct access, there were concerns that information was not easily available to those seeking indirect access.

Therefore we required the four main sponsor banks (Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and RBS) to publish more information about what they are offering those seeking indirect access and what they will need in return. This requirement has also been effective since 30 June 2015.

How the industry has responded

We have already observed a number of positive changes in the industry aimed at improving access to payment systems.

The operators and sponsor banks have now published the information they are required to in accordance with our two directions. To make their criteria easy to find, a new hub for information on access to payment systems, produced by the trade association Payments UK, is available online: Access to Payment Systems.

We have also received compliance reports from operators showing how they are complying with our measures aimed at improving direct access.

In addition, operators are proactively taking steps to create other ways of gaining access, such as the technical access solutions being developed for the Faster Payments Scheme. Read more about technical access solutions.

Payments UK is also working on a code of conduct that will govern arrangements for indirect access provided by the four main sponsor banks. This code will be published in the summer and will set out a range of important measures the industry can take to further improve indirect access.

What next for the PSR?

We will continue to engage with operators and sponsor banks to help them adopt, and adapt to, our regulation. We will also review the operators’ compliance reports and look to publish a summary of our findings later this year.

We will also begin evaluating whether our directions are having the desired effects on the market and whether we need to take further action, including hearing your views on the subject. This will support our wider work on access to ensure we continuously improve access year on year.

Finally, we are also carrying out an in-depth market review that is looking at the supply of indirect access to payment systems and whether competition is working well for those that use payment systems this way. We published the final terms of reference for that market review in June and are now in the information gathering stage.

We expect to publish an interim report by January 2016 and a final report by May 2016. Read more about the market review.

Further reading

Find out more about payment systems, how they work and an explanation of some of the terms we use.