About the New Electronic Payment System (“Digital Money”)
The Government of Ecuador is in process of implementing an initiative proposed in January 2014 by the Ecuadorian Central Bank (BCE), for the use of a new electronic payment system, which is being commonly referred to as digital money.
The new electronic payment system will be implemented and managed by the BCE. The goal of the system is to increase the economic inclusion of the 40% of marginalized and currently underserved sectors of the population with limited access to financial services by allowing them to make payments electronically, thus facilitating their economic and social inclusion.
The implementation of the new electronic payment system comes along and is also regulated in a major financial reform that was debated in the National Assembly and incorporates revisions and input from different political parties and the private sector. The Law was published on September 12 in the National Registry.
These instruments aim to provide higher security for all deposits, improve the utilization of financial resources, and change antiquated financial practices into modern ones based on the prevalence of human capital, inclusion and equity; the code also repeals several scattered laws inconsistent with the Constitution and provides a legal framework to prevent major crisis in the financial sector, such as the banking crisis of 1999 that bankrupted millions of Ecuadorians to the benefit of a few powerful bankers.
10 Things to Know about Ecuador’s Electronic Payment System:
1. The electronic money does not replace the use of the U.S. Dollar. Its value is a representation of the same amount of dollars deposited at the BCE that can be transferred to other users through the use of electronic devices. As outlined in article 94 of Ecuador’s new monetary code, all financial and monetary transactions in Ecuador must be performed in U.S. dollars.
2. The electronic money is not a new or parallel currency, and it is not comparable to popular digital currencies such as “Bitcoin”. It is more accurately a payment system implemented by the BCE that is no different from an electronic wallet system used in countries around the world. No new money is being created. It is a new and cheaper method to store and transfer existing money (U.S. dollars).
3. The electronic payment system is regulated by Ecuador’s Monetary and Financial Organic Code, which requires digital money to be 100% backed by liquid assets, which means that for every digital dollar created there has to be a physical U.S. dollar at the BCE.
4. The money used in the new electronic payment system will be transferrable via ATMs, text messages, applications, websites, NFCs, Tablets, and IVRs. 40% of Ecuadorians lack banking services, while 90% of the population owns a cellphone or electronic device compatible with the digital money system.
5. The electronic money can be redeemed for its equivalent in dollars without any discount, except for the expenses related to carrying out the transaction—similar to using an ATM card, where the customer can deposit money, receive money, make payments or withdraw the money.
6. The electronic payment system will be available to the general public, private and public institutions (including private and public financial organizations) that have the capability to adopt and implement the electronic money system.
7. Payments made by the government or private organization using the electronic money system are backed by the equivalent amount in U.S dollars deposited at the BCE. In practice, users will have to deposit dollars with the BCE that they can then spend electronically.
8.The digital money ensures that all citizens, regardless of their economic and social status, have the ability to open a digital money account and have access to electronic financial services.
9. The digital money system will reduce poverty by reducing the cost of money transfers and providing a tool for unbanked people, especially in rural areas, to have greater access to the labor market, government programs, and the ability to trade further than they have been able in the past.
10. The new electronic money system will foster the creation of new economic networks among segments that currently struggle to expand their markets due to the lack of banking services.