Payments before Christmas – Christmas shopping with request to pay?

The Christmas season. Not quite as snow-white, not quite as calm and not quite as peaceful as the stories keep saying – but in its way quite charming. However, this time of year can be a little confusing, especially when the account statements show the pre-Christmas shopping adventures.

Most people will know this: The well-meaning “...but no gift-giving this year!” is even less valid than the shortly thereafter made New Year’s resolutions. And even though it feels like Christmas starts in autumn with the first gingerbread on the shelves, somehow buying the presents is always postponed until the last minute. That is exactly how this year I find myself caught in the shopping madness once more. Parents, sister, grandparents, family of the partner with five siblings – and the next generation is already at the door. Reconciling the various wish lists, shopping lists and plans with my account statements seems to be a job for Sisyphus himself.

My preferred online shops have my direct debit mandate, other digital shops accept only credit card payments, the concert tickets I paid via PayPal and the goods bought analogous and “offline” from the retailers were paid by Girocard.

Recognising all these positions on my much too long account statement reminds me that I still have to order a 3000-piece puzzle for my aunt. Has the tea set for grandma already been paid or will it still be debited? When will my telephone bill be deducted this month? That's usually around this week, isn't it? And what is that “XY shop” again, for what did they get € 90?

Like every year, I have the feeling that the shopping madness is slipping through my fingers and I lose track of things. The time lag between order and payment as well as the many different deadlines leave me with an unpleasant feeling in my stomach – especially in this time of unusual debits from my account something can quickly slip through. What use is it to me that I can reclaim a direct debit if I can no longer identify it? What credit card payment have I really authorised?

It should be easier. It should be better organised. It should be immediate. Next year around this time?
I imagine myself ordering the new radio for my mother and being asked in my banking app at the moment of ordering to release the exact amount for it. The corny Christmas sweaters with the reindeer nose are ordered in two different sizes, tried on. And at the moment of returning the much too large one, my online banking asks me whether I will release the payment for the matching sweater.

There are three packages waiting for me at the Packstation. In order to open the hatch, on request I authorise the payment. The XY shop again wants € 90? Rejected! I didn't order anything there. And my phone bill was apparently higher than usual in December and, therefore, the payment request was not automatically confirmed. I check the call statement and then authorise it manually - that's right, I called my relatives in England.

That is the request to pay. Who knows whether it will make my next Christmas calmer and more peaceful. But getting more control over my payments before they actually happen, and easing my confusion when it comes to my account, that sounds almost as nice as having a white Christmas.

Author: Anuschka Clasen

XS2A without third-party providers – well, why not?

As part of the PSD2 an interface for third-party service providers (XS2A API) was introduced across Europe. As the initiator, the EU aims to open the access to the customers' bank accounts to third parties and thus wants to promote competition in the market. By the due date on 14/09/2019 the XS2A API was put into operation by the financial institutions in Europe. Since then, market participants have been reorganising, adjusting the XS2A API to the needs of stakeholders and working intensively on services for both consumers and companies.

As a regulatory must-have, the XS2A API is initially a cost factor for financial institutions. However, value-added services have been considered right from the start and have already been specified by the Berlin Group, for example, in order to provide financial institutions with a source of income. But in the current API hype there are no limits to the fantasies about the sources of income.

So we are riding the hype wave for now and imagining the XS2A API as an alternative access channel for companies. And why not? From a technical point of view, the hurdles should be low. A company could identify itself as a third-party service provider by means of an eIDAS certificate. The certificate would only differ in the specific fields for third-party service providers. Similar to EBICS, submitted orders or enquiries can be provided with a signature which the recipient can use to check the integrity of the message. A secure transport channel is guaranteed by the use of TLS.

From a business point of view, you can use the use case "Initiate payment" to execute both individual and collective payments. For the release, consumers are offered the usual authorisation procedures known from online banking (e. g. photoTAN, pushTAN). This would probably be unsuitable for companies. Therefore, the use of corporate seals would be more likely, which has to be specified. The query of account information (balances, transactions, details) is also possible via the XS2A API. In this particular case, where a relationship of trust exists between the company and the financial institution, the consent required for this could be given via a permanently valid consent.

Seen from an average vantage point, the XS2A API would thus be a valid alternative, which is already being considered in various forums. Here, the idea is assigned attributes such as "cheaper, more convenient, real-time capable and more flexible in adjustments". However, the status quo brings us down to earth. The defining specification of the Berlin Group gives the financial institutions a lot of freedom to implement the API. In the effort to reach all financial institutions in Europe via XS2A, this freedom is currently a challenge for all market participants. A state that is not inviting for companies, not yet. However, the foundation for an alternative has been laid.

Author: Christian Wenz