The Financial Conduct Authority closed down Wirecard UK this morning after the parent company filed for insolvency in Germany. This came after the discovery of a €1.9 billion fraud.
(If you’ve not been following this fraud, I recommend reading the diary of the pivotal Financial Times investigation which is amusing. “March 2019: Attempting to visit some of these Wirecard partners in the Philippines, the FT instead discovers a retired seaman and his family, who are bemused to learn that their house is supposedly the site of an international payments business.”)
The UK entity, Wirecard Card Solutions, has or is currently providing back-end services for fintech groups such as Revolut, Tymit, Stocard, Soldo, ANNA Money and Curve.
ANNA Money put out a tweet this morning which read:
“We are urgently recommending you withdraw your money from your ANNA account as soon as possible. This is due to the FCA placing requirements on our UK payment provider.”
Has Curve Card been impacted?
Curve Card was meant to be moving its processing away from Wirecard on 28th June. This wasn’t quite soon enough, unfortunately.
Curve has published the following on its website:
What it means for Curve and you.
Curve depends on Wirecard for operational support, which means your Curve Card and all associated Curve services will be temporarily suspended.
Here are a few things we can tell you before you ask:
- You can still access your account. You’ll be able to access your Curve account via the app and view all your existing account information and details of past transactions.
- You won’t need a new card. Once we’re up and running again we anticipate that you will be able to continue to use your existing card.
- Time travel is suspended. Go Back In Time is unavailable for the time being.
- Curve Cash is suspended. Your Curve Cash balance will remain the same, but is also inaccessible, for now.
- Refunds may be delayed. We are currently unable to process refunds. When we are back up and running, we intend to address refunds as a priority.
- Apple Pay, Google Pay & Samsung Pay won’t work. Using your Curve card through a digital wallet will also be unsuccessful while we’re down.
It’s difficult to tell at this stage how much of a problem this will be for Curve. If it was on target to switch from Wirecard on 28th June then presumably alternative arrangements are in place. With Wirecard UK no longer trading, however, Curve may have practical issues in completing the move. Users also need clarity on whether transactions made in recent days will clear, and whether there will be any issues processing refunds for recent purchases which are eventually returned.
If the business is up and running again within a few days this is unlikely to cause any long term damage, but if it drags on for more than a week or so then users will quickly lose the Curve habit.
Has Revolut been impacted?
We have yet to see an official satement from Revolut but it looks like Revolut migrated away from Wirecard issued cards in 2018 and should therefore remain unaffected.
In a statement this morning, the FCA said:
“Our primary objective is to protect the interests and money of consumers who use Wirecard. Following last week’s news of €1.9 billion missing from the accounts of the German company, Wirecard, we immediately placed requirements on the firm’s UK business so that it should not pay out or reduce any money it holds for its customers except on their instructions. On 26 June, we took additional measures to require the firm to cease all regulated activities in order to further protect customer money. This now means customers money cannot be accessed.“
“Wirecard Card Solutions Limited (FRN 900051) is authorised and supervised by the FCA to issue e-money and provide payment services including, issuing e-money onto prepaid cards. Wirecard is authorised under the Electronic Money Regulations 2011 (the EMRs) and its activities are also subject to requirements under the Payment Services Regulations 2017 (the PSRs).
On 26 June 2020, the FCA imposed a number of requirements on Wirecard including, that the firm:
- must not dispose of any assets or funds
- must not carry on any regulated activities
- must set out a statement on its website and communicate to customers that it is no longer permitted to conduct any regulated activities.
This follows publication to the FCA’s Register of a number of requirements which have been applied to Wirecard’s authorisation from 19 June 2020. The full requirements have been published to the FCA Register.
There are ongoing events in Germany concerning companies closely linked to Wirecard. Wirecard’s parent company, Wirecard AG based in Germany is currently the subject of law enforcement interest and insolvency proceedings. Wirecard AG is not supervised by the FCA.
Why did the FCA take this action now?
The FCA is the UK’s designated competent authority, responsible for granting firms based in the UK, permissions to undertake e-money activities and payment services and, it is within the FCA’s power to take supervisory action in certain cases to protect the interests of a firm’s customers. Under the EMRs, the FCA may impose such requirements as it considers appropriate which may require a firm to (a) take a specified action; or (b) refrain from taking a specified action. These types of requirements are known as ‘Own Initiative Requirements (OIREQ)’.
Our primary objective is to protect the interests and money of consumers who use Wirecard. Following last week’s news of €1.9 billion missing from the accounts of the German company, Wirecard, we immediately placed requirements on the firm’s UK business so that it should not pay out or reduce any money it holds for its customers except on their instructions. We have been working closely with Wirecard UK and other authorities over the past few days to take action that protects consumers. We are continuing to do this and on 26 June, we took additional measures to require the firm to cease all regulated activities in order to further protect customer money. This now means customers money cannot be accessed.
What should I do if I have e-money with Wirecard, use Wirecard to make payments or my prepaid card has stopped working? Who do I contact?
Customers should contact Wirecard or their card provider directly and may do so using the contact details on the Wirecard website(link is external) or their card provider’s website.
Customers can also contact our Consumer Helpline for further information.
What should I do if I gave money to an agent of Wirecard?
E-money firms like Wirecard may provide payment services through agents. An agent is any person (this can be an individual or a company) who provides payment services on behalf of an e-money firm. E-money firms may also appoint distributors to distribute or redeem e-money but distributors cannot provide payment services. Unlike agents, there is no requirement to register distributors and agents are published to the FCA’s Register. Where e-money firms appoint agents or distributors they are responsible for anything done by an agent or distributor.
Customers should contact Wirecard directly if they are concerned, have any questions or for any updates.
What should I do if I gave money to an agent of Wirecard which is based in another EEA country?
An authorised e-money firm, like Wirecard, may provide payment services or e-money activities in another European Economic Area (EEA) country. This is called ‘passporting’. Passporting when a business carries on activities and services regulated under EU law in another EEA country on the basis of authorisation or registration in its home country. The activities may be carried out in the host country using a branch or a local agent / distributor or, on a cross-border services basis without a physical presence in the host country for example, a website.
Wirecard is passporting its services into all EEA countries and has established some agents and distributors in those countries. If a customer has given money to an agent or distributor of Wirecard which is based in another EEA country, they should contact Wirecard directly.
The account where I receive my benefit payments has been frozen, what do I do?
Please refer to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)(link is external) for support.
Are my funds protected by FSCS?
No. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) only applies to certain types of activity which does not include issuing electronic money or payment services.
Under the EMRs and PSRs, there are rules on how customers’ money should be protected and these requirements are known as ‘safeguarding’.
Is there a chance I won’t get my money back? What is safeguarding?
Safeguarding is a key consumer protection measure within the EMRs and the PSRs. The purpose of safeguarding is to protect and return customer money if a firm was to fail.
Wirecard is required under the EMRs to maintain appropriate measures to safeguard customers money. It does this by holding it separate from its own money in accounts with banks (or another credit institution). Effective safeguarding arrangements are critical to help ensure that customers’ money is protected and returned if a firm fails. Adequate safeguarding arrangements which are compliant with the regulatory requirements are a condition of Wirecard’s ongoing FCA authorisation.
What should I do if I am a firm who outsources some operational functions to Wirecard?
Firms should contact their relevant Supervision contact to discuss the contingency plans they have in place. We have a dedicated Customer Contact Centre to give your firm a direct point of contact, email [email protected]
To note, we are currently consulting on new requirements on the firms we supervise to help strengthen their operational resilience including, the implications for operational resilience for firms using outsourcing and other third-party service providers. Find out more. We would also draw your attention to the EBA Guidelines on Outsourcing Arrangements which apply to e-money and payment firms.
What happens next?
The FCA has published requirements to the Register in respect of Wirecard and continue working with the firm to progress these matters.”
(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards? Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)