The United States has been frustrated since India’s central bank banned the issuance of new cards for breaching data storage rules.
A senior US trade official has privately criticized India’s July decision to ban Mastercard Inc from issuing new cards, calling it a “draconian” move that caused “panic,” according to US government emails viewed. by Reuters.
The documents show frustration within the US government after India’s central bank banned the issuance of new cards by American Express and Diners Club International in April, then took similar action against Mastercard in July. .
The Reserve Bank of India has accused the companies of violating local data storage rules. The bans do not affect existing customers.
The ban on Mastercard, one of the major payment networks in India alongside Visa, sparked a series of emails between US officials in Washington and India as they discussed next steps with Mastercard, including approaching RBI, the emails show. of the government.
“We’ve started hearing from stakeholders about some pretty draconian steps the RBI has taken in the last two days,” wrote Brendan A Lynch, US Deputy Trade Representative for South and Central Asia, on July 16, two days after the Mastercard Announcement.
“It appears that some others (Amex, Diners) may have been affected by similar actions recently,” Lynch wrote, asking his colleagues in India to contact their central bank contacts “to see what is going on.”
Lynch, spokesmen for the Office of the US Trade Representative and the US Embassy in New Delhi did not respond to requests for comment. The United States government has not publicly commented on the Mastercard ban.
The RBI did not immediately respond.
A Mastercard spokesperson told Reuters: “We have had very constructive engagements with the governments of India and the United States over the past few weeks and we appreciate their support.” This includes discussions with the RBI, and Mastercard has “made good progress” in seeking to resolve the situation quickly, he said.
Soured business ties
Mastercard sees India as a key growth market. In 2019, he said he was “optimistic about India,” a country where it has made big investment bets and built research and technology centers.
The Mastercard ban shook the company and upset the Indian financial sector as Indian partner banks fear a revenue shock as they struggle to quickly partner with new networks to offer cards.
The RBI acted against Mastercard because it was “found to be non-compliant” with the 2018 rules despite “considerable time lag and adequate opportunities.”
The rules, which require foreign card networks to store Indian payment data locally for “unrestricted supervisory access,” were implemented after unsuccessful lobbying efforts by US companies also deteriorated business ties between New Delhi. and Washington.
Mastercard has said it was “disappointed” with the decision. The company told Reuters it had submitted an additional audit report to the RBI before the ban took effect on July 22.
Emails from the US government show that there was hope that things would be sorted out before then.
In one, Lynch told colleagues that the understanding was that “the RBI has the information they need and is hopeful that they will respond appropriately.” But as the ban approached, “if the RBI does not change course, I am sure the panic will resume,” he wrote.
Days later, he wrote that Mastercard was still “making the whole court press” in Washington.