Brazil central bank chief says WhatsApp payments service faces further review

FILE PHOTO: A logo of WhatsApp is pictured on a T-shirt worn on the outskirts of Kolkata, India, October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s central bank president said on Thursday that Facebook Inc messaging service WhatsApp would be allowed to launch its new payments service in the country, but called for proof it can operate safely in terms of data protection in a competitive market.

“We are not saying that it is not competitive, we just want them to ask for authorization and to show us how it will work for us to make sure it is competitive,” Roberto Campos Neto said in a webcast organized by local newspaper Correio Braziliense.

WhatsApp did not immediately comment on Campos Neto’s remarks.

The world’s largest social media platform announced its first nationwide rollout of WhatsApp’s payment service in Brazil on June 15, allowing users to send money to individuals or local businesses within a chat.

A week later, however, Brazil’s central bank and antitrust watchdog Cade suspended the service, citing potential damage in the areas of competition, efficiency and data privacy. Regulators blocked WhatsApp partnerships with Visa, Mastercard and Cielo SA.

On Tuesday, Cade revoked its decision, saying that preliminary information provided by both Cielo and Facebook indicated their agreement does not limit new deals with rivals and does not reduce consumers’ choice.

Campos Neto noted that WhatsApp’s payment service would start operating with 120 million users - its customer base in Brazil -, which according to the central bank is a significant scale and, therefore, requires a more thorough analysis.

“At no point the central bank has forbidden anything, the central bank is willing to authorize it once it has given the same procedural treatment as other arrangements,” he said.

“We have a pro-competition agenda. Once it is proven that it is a competitive arrangement and has data protection in the way we understand is needed, it will be approved,” Campos Neto added.

Reporting by Marcela Ayres and Jamie McGeever; Writing and additional reporting by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Chris Reese and Tom Brown