WhatsApp Payments will roll out in India this year
Meanwhile, Facebook’s cryptocurrency Libra cannot launch in India, as cryptocurrencies are essentially banned in the country.
A launch of WhatsApp’s payment platform across all of 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 among a limited number of users, but the company has yet to roll the feature, which makes transferring money “as simple as sending a message”, out to the entire country’s population.
Using India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI), WhatsApp pay 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 suspects that a global rollout of WhatsApp Payments will “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 feature prevented users from forwarding a message more than five times, in order to limit the spread of harmful content and fake news.
While WhatsApp Payments may likely roll out successfully, the announcement comes at a time when WhatsApp’s holding company Facebook is struggling get the go-ahead for its proposed 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 also have concerns following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
CNet reported, “Libra is intended to be used to purchase products, send money internationally and make donations – but it cannot launch in India, where cryptocurrency is essentially banned.”
In April 2018, the Reserve Bank of India published a press release which said: “Virtual Currencies (VCs), also variously referred to as crypto currencies and crypto assets, raise concerns of consumer protection, market integrity and money laundering, among others.” The RBI went on to say: “Entities regulated by RBI shall not deal with or provide services to any individual or business entities dealing VCs”.
Facebook and WhatsApp did not comment any further than Cathcart’s statement.