SINGAPORE (Sept 17): Singapore on Monday launched the Singapore Quick Response Code (SGQR), which combines multiple payment QR codes into a single SGQR label.

Photo: Minister Ong Ye Kung testing out the new SGQR label to make a purchase.

The first of its kind globally, SGQR will be adopted by 27 payment schemes, including PayNow, NETS, GrabPay, Liquid Pay and Singtel DASH.

To be deployed progressively over the next six months, SGQR will replace more than 19,000 QR codes currently in use at store fronts and billing statements.

With the consolidation of QR codes, merchant will only need to display a single SGQR label showing the e-payments it accepts, leading to less clutter on the store front and quicker payments processing.

The addition of new QR payments options – both domestic and international – are also streamlined into the single SGQR label.

Consumers will now be able to choose their preferred payment scheme from the accepted options on the SGQR label, log in to the relevant payment app, and scan to pay.

“These may well be the last few jigsaw pieces for us to put in place to complete the national e-payment infrastructure,” says Minister of Education Ong Ye Kung, who is also a board member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

“QR code payments have been growing and many cash-intensive merchants, such as hawkers, are accepting them. But every scheme – e-wallet, PayNow, NETSPay – all issue their own QR code. This causes confusion,” Ong says at the launch of SGQR.

To solve this, MAS and the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), with the support of the Payments Council, last year brought Singapore’s QR industry together to streamline the process.

See: Singapore to roll out unified SG QR for electronic payments by 2018

“The launch of SGQR is a very welcome development,” says Tan Su Shan, managing director and group head of consumer banking and wealth management at DBS Bank. “We believe the standardisation of QR code standards gives consumers greater freedom in their choice of payment platforms and will further popularise the adoption of e-payments.”

According to Tan, there has been an explosive growth in the usage of QR code transactions in Singapore. “DBS PayLah! recently hit a peak of 1.2 million monthly QR code transactions – some 15 times higher than the average monthly QR code transactions recorded in the first quarter of this year,” she says.

See: Singapore aims to reduce cash transactions, eliminate cheques amid e-payments push

Ong today also announced the forming of a Direct FAST industry working group to develop business and technical requirements for non-banks to connect directly to FAST.

“This is a major milestone for our infrastructure development,” Ong says. “Open access to a common infrastructure like FAST means that banks and non-banks will have to compete harder to gain and retain customers. They will have to innovate and offer value-added services constantly to stay ahead of the curve.”

At the same time, Ong says new requirements will be included in the upcoming Payment Services Bill to set minimum standards, which will address a range of potential risks related to e-payments.

“All these efforts will come to naught if people do not feel safe using e-payments. The last piece of the e-payments jigsaw is regulations for payments that are transparent, easily understood and give sufficient peace of mind to all parties,” he says.

See: Cashless society should not leave anyone behind