Jacinda Ardern has promised to whack Australian banks with regulation to bring down the costs of contactless payment for Kiwis.
The New Zealand prime minister made lower costs for payWave payments her second people-pleasing promise in as many days while out on the campaign trail.
On Monday, she promised a new public holiday to celebrate the Maori New Year, and on Tuesday she unveiled Labour’s small business policy.
Visiting Tauranga on the Bay of Plenty ahead of the October 17 election, Ms Ardern said it wasn’t fair that the tap-and-go payments cost around 50 per cent more in New Zealand than Australia.
“It should be cheaper … it’s something that we have heard the call for, and we will be acting,” she said.
Australian companies make up the vast majority of banking in New Zealand, but the super-fast transactions are a rarity in New Zealand.
The contactless payments make up 83 per cent of in-person Australian card payments but just 15 per cent in NZ, according to a Newsroom report, because of higher costs slugged across the Tasman – primarily by Aussie banks.
The arrival of COVID-19 to Kiwi shores saw banks halt the fees, given the desire to limit physical distancing.
Unfortunately for cash-strapped New Zealanders and businesses, the costs returned when the deadly virus was eliminated.
After getting a taste for the easier payments, Ms Ardern wants them to stay.
“We are committed to regulating this area so that we can see those merchant service fees come down for our small businesses,” she said.
“(Australian banks) are not paying the rates that we are in New Zealand. That’s a good, sound starting point to say something needs to change.”
Industry bodies believe the contactless technology costs around one per cent for each transaction, a cost that is passed on to either the consumer or the retailer, while credit card transactions charge even more.
Ms Ardern wouldn’t commit to bringing prices into line with Australia but said parity was “a good starting point”.
If re-elected, Labour will also allow Kiwi small businesses to access around $NZ1.5 billion in government loans, extending a scheme first announced in May’s budget.
None of that mattered to young Bennett Ballinger-Judd, who took a couple of hours off school with her mum to meet Ms Ardern.
Bennett was left speechless when the PM signed her book, writing “Always remember, girls can do anything Bennett!” and posing for photos.
Ms Ardern continues to get a loving reception on the campaign trail, indicative of her thumping lead in the polls.