Mexico's central bank is in talks with Amazon.com to launch a new government-backed mobile payment system that would allow consumers to pay for online purchases using QR codes, the bank's head of payments said.
It would be the first time the world's largest online retailer offers such scanning technology in Mexico and could eventually open a new customer base in a nation where more than half of the population has no bank account.
The payment system, known as CoDi, is being built by central bank Banco de México, known as Banxico. CoDi will allow customers to make payments online and in person through smartphones free of charge using QR codes. It aims to bring more people into the formal financial sector.
A pilot rollout of CoDi is expected this month, Banxico has said.
Amazon and Argentine rival MercadoLibre have approached the bank about adopting the system, Jaime Cortina, Banxico's director of operations and payments, told Reuters.
"They have also said that they could implement it relatively quickly," Cortina said, adding that CoDi was specifically designed so that it can facilitate payments online as well as in stores.
Amazon declined to comment. MercadoLibre confirmed that its payments arm MercadoPago was in contact with the central bank about digital payment solutions but declined to comment further.
Phone-based banking is popular in other emerging markets such as China, India and Kenya, and has been driven by user-friendly, affordable apps from private companies.
Cortina said online retailers should have no problem incorporating the technology at the same time as banks and other participants in the existing interbank payment system that powers CoDi.
Only 3.9 percent of retail sales were made online in Mexico last year, according to research firm Euromonitor International, with Amazon and MercadoLibre among the biggest players.
Both retailers want to encourage unbanked customers to shop online and allow cash payments at convenience stores. Amazon also launched its first debit card last year, targeting consumers without credit cards.
Mexico's new leftist government under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is betting on financial technology to help lift people out of poverty. Broad acceptance of CoDi would mark an important step in its financial inclusion strategy.
(Reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Additional reporting by Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City and Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Richard Chang)