How Request to Pay is empowering payer decisions

7 September 2021


5 min read

Ian Tomlin

Mobile bill payments 

We use our smartphones to conveniently do a multitude of tasks: stay in touch with friends, catch up on the news, book flights, and order a takeaway. But, when it comes to organizing and paying bills—merging the wallet and the mobile phone into one—the technology has proven to be somewhat harder to tame. 

Of course, we have a multitude of ways we can pay and want to pay. Advances in Near Field Communications (NFC) technologies allow us to use digital wallets on smartphones with apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay to settle our grocery expenses, and banking apps to settle long-standing monthly bills. Companies like PayPal and Venmo allow us to securely request or make payments digitally. 

So good so far, but when it comes to managing a blend of different bills, particularly for those who are short on cash, the mobile phone has lacked a robust way to prioritize and make secure bill payments—until now. 

Secure mobile payments for the vulnerable 

According to research conducted by Institute for Public Policy Research, in the United Kingdom today, one in six working households—or 17.4 per cent— are living in poverty, 1.5 million consumers are in water poverty, over 20 million people are claiming state benefits, and over 1 in 5 pupils (1.7 million) in England are eligible for school meals (as of Jan 2021).  

The FCA’s Financial Lives survey presents startling figures that 46% of UK adults display a characteristic that could make them vulnerable. That means 1 in 3 people at the end of each month have to make tough decisions on where their money goes.

For many, the monthly activity of settling up tabs means writing cheques, paying with cash, and taking risks on Pay by Link requests which often prove to be fraudulent. For this reason, the UK’s banking industry, led by Pay.UK and encouraged by the FCA, have come up with a secure, new hub and spoke messaging platform ecosystem for payment requests by mobile phone – Request to Pay. RtP is a new form of digital bill payment that joins up the communication (sending/receipt of invoice) with the payment. We’ve recently launched a demo of what this looks like but an overview of the process is below.

Request to Pay—Secure bill payments by mobile phone 

It’s not possible for consumers or billers to instantly access Request to Pay: It’s background ‘plumbing and pipes’ technology that hides in the mists of banking systems. Its function is to lay out the messaging constructs and interoperability protocols that manage the secure messaging infrastructure, permissions and transactions that need to happen between bank, biller and payer systems.

This means banks and PSPs have to enhance their existing payment systems with RtP technologies and protocols in order to provide these services. Fortunately, pioneers like Answer Pay have already put in place the retrofittable SaaS toolkit to make the transition easier. 

Once systems get upgraded with Request to Pay, customers get to access these services via a secured mobile banking app or digital wallet system. Payers enjoy a series of safeguards to make sure they are in control of their spending priorities, and that transactions don’t get lost in the banking system, or run the gauntlet of phishing attacks. 

RtP is ideally suited for banks and payment service providers that serve bill payers who want to have more control over which bills they pay, and when they pay them. That’s good news for all financially vulnerable bill payers.

RtP empowers those financially at-risk by allowing them to use a trusted mobile app to make secure mobile payments anytime, anywhere. Additionally, banking and digital wallet apps can be designed to let payers request a part payment if they are struggling to make ends meet. Furthermore, billers get to engage their audience in ‘a conversation’ so payers have the opportunity to share their financial challenges and come to a sensible go-forward solution they can manage.