Business / Tech

Japanese government mulling unified QR codes for transport fares


The industry ministry is discussing introducing unified Quick Response, or QR, code standards for cashless fee payments for local train, bus and other transportation services, sources said.

Such standards would allow users to pay fares for public transport run by various operators, all by smartphone. Also envisioned are QR code cashless payments of taxes and medical bills at hospitals.

With regional financial institutions reducing the number of automated teller machines, the ministry aims to create an environment in which people can live without having to withdraw cash frequently, the sources said.

QR code payments, which require downloaded smartphone apps, are made by reading the codes of stores or customers.

The payments are made from accounts linked to the apps. If QR code payments spread, users would be able to pay for all living expenses, including bus fares and grocery bills, by smartphone if they select accounts into which their pension benefits and salaries are paid. This would make it unnecessary to withdraw money from ATMs.

In Japan, transport service-related electronic money cards such as Suica of East Japan Railway Co. and Pasmo, both used in the greater Tokyo area and elsewhere, have become popular.

For small transportation operators outside the area, however, the costs would be a problem if they want to introduce such cards. QR code payments do not require massive investment as they use customers’ smartphones.

The ministry is exchanging information on the matter with the transport ministry and megabank groups, which are studying cashless payments.

The industry ministry hopes to include related expenses in its budget request for fiscal 2020 at the earliest, after forming a consensus among local transportation operators.