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Report: Russia's new payment system rules could also hit AmEx

Amendments to Russia's national payment system law could also pose problems to American Express Co., in addition to negatively affecting Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc., Kommersant reported July 19.

The newspaper reported earlier in July that Russian lawmakers plan to ban the local units of international payment card operators, such as Visa and Mastercard, from refusing to process cards of Russian banks operating under sanctions, which could result in those companies exiting the local market.

In its recent letter to the finance ministry, Russia's National Payment Council also pointed to risks stemming from other provisions of the draft legislation, namely those that would ban Russian customers from receiving electronic payment instruments from payment services providers outside of Russia. Those particular provisions would mainly apply to such providers as WeChat and China's AliPay, but could also affect American Express corporate credit cards, which are used on the Russian market mainly by subsidiaries of foreign firms and are issued directly by the U.S. company. The provisions would not affect American Express cards for individuals, as they are issued in Russia by JSC Russian Standard Bank, the newspaper said.

American Express did not officially comment on the matter, but a source told Kommersant the company is studying the implications of the Duma passing the provisions. Anatoly Aksakov, who heads the Duma's financial markets committee, said the legislative changes would not apply to American Express.

The entire bill was passed by the Duma in the second reading July 18, with third reading scheduled for July 23, which is when the second reading was originally supposed to take place, the newspaper reported. The National Payment Council, which represents card operators and payment systems present in Russia, warned that the amendments are being passed by lawmakers without a thorough analysis of their consequences and without discussions with market participants.