The global head of WhatsApp said the company’s new mobile payment system will be available across India later this year.
The launch of WhatsApp’s digital payment platform in India has been in the pipeline for quite a while.
Since February 2018, the messaging giant’s payment transfer service has been in beta testing with a limited number of users in the country, but the company has yet to roll out the feature, which aims to make transferring money “as simple as sending a message”.
Using India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI), WhatsApp’s payment feature enables account-to-account transfers from a mobile app without the bank details of the beneficiary.
WhatsApp has 1.5bn users globally, with 400m in India.
On Wednesday (24 July), Will Cathcart, global head of WhatsApp, said: “Payments services are critical to accelerating financial inclusion and bringing millions more people into India’s fast-growing digital economy. We can’t wait to provide this service to our users across India this year.”
ZDNet suggests that a global roll-out of the digital payment service could “follow a similar route to the platform’s five-message forwarding cap feature, which was also initially rolled out to India”.
The five-message forwarding cap prevents users from forwarding a message more than five times, in order to limit the spread of harmful content and so-called ‘fake news’.
While WhatsApp’s payment feature may soon be rolled out across India and elsewhere, the app’s parent company Facebook is still trying to get support for its cryptocurrency, Libra.
Governments in the US, France and Russia have expressed concerns about the threat a currency used by 2.7bn people across the globe could potentially have on national sovereignty. Users may also have concerns about data privacy following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
CNet reported that Libra may not be able to launch in India, where cryptocurrency is “essentially banned”.
In April 2018, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) published a press release that said: “Virtual currencies (VCs), also variously referred to as cryptocurrencies and crypto-assets, raise concerns of consumer protection, market integrity and money laundering, among others.
“Entities regulated by RBI shall not deal with or provide services to any individual or business entities dealing VCs.”