Consumer protection issues surrounding different payment methods.


Does It Matter How I Pay?

Jessie Cheng, Alaina Gimbert, Joe Torregrossa


There seemingly are lots of new ways to make payments today. New apps for smart phones, new peer-to-peer payment networks, new currencies, and new ledger systems offer to meet the needs of U.S. consumers and businesses in ways that legacy payment methods do not. Many of these new ways to pay have improved end-user experience by providing more convenient or intuitive ways to initiate payments through legacy systems (such as the ability to accept card payments through a device that connects to a phone). In other cases, the underlying payment system through which payments are made is new (such as the ability to pay someone instantly with virtual currency through a distributed ledger system).

It does matter how you pay; however, the part that matters—from a legal perspective—is not the means of initiation (i.e., payment via mobile app) or infrastructure (i.e., blockchain), but rather who is providing the payment service to the payor and payee and the characteristics of the payment service.

This article’s focus is how payment-system and consumer-protection laws apply (or do not apply) to some of the new ways to pay. It should be noted that there are other important legal and regulatory frameworks that apply to payments, such as financial privacy, cyber and information security, Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering, and economic sanctions, all of which are beyond the scope of this article.

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