Brazil's central bank suspends WhatsApp's new payments service

The central bank of Brazil has suspended WhatsApp’s payments service just a week after its launch.

The central bank said it had ordered Visa and Mastercard to immediately stop payments and transfers via WhatsApp. The decision aims to “preserve an adequate competitive environment, which ensures the functioning of an interoperable, fast, secure, transparent, open and inexpensive payment system,” said the central bank.

WhatsApp rolled out its payments feature in Brazil last week, and supports Visa and Mastercard cards from Banco do Brasil, Nubank, and Sicredi. The central bank said if Visa and Mastercard do not comply with its order, they would be subject to fines and administrative sanctions.

What’s more, Brazil’s national competition regulator, the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE), has blocked WhatsApp’s partnership with payments processor Cielo. The regulator said Cielo has a high market share, and WhatsApp has millions of users in Brazil, “which can guarantee significant market power upon its entry.”

The central bank and CADE’s moves are the latest setbacks for WhatsApp owner Facebook, which has faced severe criticism from regulators worldwide for its stablecoin project Libra.

A WhatsApp spokesperson told various media outlets that the company would continue to work with “local partners and the central bank” to make the payments service possible.

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