Brazil's Central Bank forces WhatsApp to suspend mobile payments

It's only been a few days since it launched in the country.


Brazil’s Central Bank has put a pause on WhatsApp payments in the country, according to Bloomberg. Apparently, the bank decided to suspend the feature to “preserve an adequate competitive environment, that ensures the functioning of a payment system that’s interchangeable, fast, secure, transparent, open and cheap.”

Facebook, WhatsApp’s parent company, rolled out payments in Brazil earlier this month after two years of testing. The South American country is WhatsApp’s second largest market after India, making it a great starting point for a feature that Facebook says will eventually be available to everyone. It allows users to pay for purchases from local merchants without leaving the app and without fees on top. A lot of small businesses in India, Brazil and other developing countries use WhatsApp as their main online presence, ad the feature will give them an easy way to accept digital payments.

At launch, the service supported cards issued by Banco do Brasil, Nubank and Sicredi, so long as they were issued by Mastercard or Visa. The Central Bank of Brazil asked both payment processors to stop money transfer activities through WhatsApp or face fines. According to bank authorities, the suspension will allow them to evaluate any risk the service might pose to Brazil’s payment systems and to figure out whether it meets all the necessary rules, particularly when it comes to “competition, efficiency and data privacy” concerns.

As for Facebook, Bloomberg says the bank’s decision took it by surprise, since the company had been in regular contact with its authorities until the feature launched. A spokesperson told the publication:

“Our goal is to provide digital payments to all WhatsApp users in Brazil using an open model and we will continue to work with local partners and the Central Bank to make this possible. In addition, we support the Central Bank’s PIX project on digital payments and together with our partners are committed to work with the Central Bank to integrate our systems when PIX [Brazil’s proposed instant-payment system] becomes available.”