What's new in October 2021: QR codes in stores, vaccines in private clinics, and exams for inexperienced investors

Retail, private medicine, Roskomnadzor and the Central Bank will benefit the most from the October new introductions. But banks are to be more likely to lose

In October, the Central Bank is beginning to actively introduce QR codes into stores to pay for goods, connecting systematically important banks to the process. Private clinics can benefit even more from the low rates of vaccination of Russians. Inexperienced investors who have rushed to the stock market will face a barrier in the form of a mandatory exam in October, and electronic wallets used by online casinos and bookmakers will be closely watched. About the October legislative new introductions, how the list of foreign agents is going to expand, and why Roskomnadzor can now find out information about your calls — read in the review of Realnoe Vremya.

Central Bank begins to introduce QR codes in stores to pay for goods

From October 1, systemically important banks will be required to connect to the payment of goods by QR code through the quick payment system. The rest must start providing this service by April 1, 2022. QR codes began to gain popularity dramatically around the world during the coronavirus pandemic. In Moscow and many European cities, only such codes, which contained information about the vaccination of citizens, were allowed to cafes and cinemas.

However, even in the financial Russian world, talks about them are no longer a new trend. For example, Sber connected to the system of payment for goods using QR codes, which was developed by the Central Bank, already in July 2021. And this is despite that it has already developed its own such system (according to experts, “it is many times more profitable for stores than accepting bank cards).

Skeptics believe that the transition to such system, which is completely unprofitable for banks, may lead to that ordinary consumers will lose loyalty programmes. At the same time, the Central Bank is going to actively implement this practice not only for money transfers by phone, but also for accepting payments in stores and services. When the system becomes available to all users of the Sberbank Online application, it can increase the popularity of the idea of the Central Bank, especially since the commission for accepting payments by QR codes for stores is less than in the case of bank cards.

The Central Bank launched payment by QR codes as part of the Fast Payment System in 2019, but it has not become popular since then. But it can be assumed that the familiarity of Russians with GR codes due to Covid-19 and the involvement of Sber as a “pathfinder” will help to promote the system much faster.

Private clinics can benefit even more from the low rates of vaccination

Speaking of Covid-19. Free vaccinations is vailable in private clinicsfFrom October 1. Theoretically, we are talking about vaccination within the framework of the national calendar of preventive vaccinations and about those vaccinations that are done according to epidemic indications. The change affects the clinics operating in the mandatory health insurance system.

A number of observers believe that the Russian authorities were forced to take this step because of the almost failed vaccination campaign in the country. Russians are being vaccinated against Сovid-19 at a low rate (probably this was the reason that a record death rate from coronavirus was recorded in Russia for several days in a row during the outgoing week). This is also evidenced by the post of the speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Vyacheslav Volodin, in Telegram: “The new norm will give citizens the opportunity to be vaccinated in a familiar and convenient place, with a specialist they trust. The quality of healthcare in general depends on the availability of medical services.”

Vladimir Putin himself signed the decree almost “just in time” on July 2 of this year. Many experts believe that Russians are reluctant to get vaccinated in ordinary municipal clinics, because they believe that there's no such thing as a free lunch. They say, if they ask for money for vaccination, it means that the quality of the service is higher. Let us remind that technically, vaccination will be free in private clinics. But they will still take money for the medical examination that precedes it.

It should be noted that private Kazan clinics, as Realnoe Vremya wrote a year ago, quickly got their bearings — for example, they promptly set up testing for coronavirus. Already by the end of April 2021, there were appointments for tests for a week ahead. If everything goes according to the plan conceived by the authorities, the rate of vaccination should really increase — and private clinics will automatically receive new streams of loyal customers and a little more cash.

“Which of you has Covid-19": a system is being created that will “not let” infected foreigners into Russia

A novel close to the subject: on October 31, an information system of sanitary and epidemiological information will be created. It will be federal and will collect “information about the sanitary and epidemiological welfare of the population”. It will contain data on the passage of mandatory medical examinations by employees of a number of professions, as well as medical examinations of foreign citizens and stateless persons. Foreigners and stateless persons will be required to undergo a medical examination for the presence or absence of infectious diseases that pose a danger to others, and HIV infection.

The law will prevent the import and spread of dangerous infectious diseases on the territory of the Russian Federation. Obviously, it was also adopted as part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, although deputies and officials do not speak directly about this. Rospotrebnadzor will become the operator of the system. Its launch should become part of the project “Sanitary Shield of the country” with a total cost of 42,3 billion rubles. The money will be allocated until 2024 from the government's strategic initiatives. The system will be filled with data in 2022-2024.

A barrier will be put in front of inexperienced investors who rush to the stock market

From October 1, unqualified investors will have to undergo a risk knowledge test before entering into some transactions. For their own good.

State Duma Speaker Volodin explains the need to introduce this novel as follows: “After the fall in the yield on deposits, a large number of inexperienced people came to the stock market. By October, the number of retail investors will exceed 14 million people. The number of victims of ill-conceived investments is also growing.

The speaker of the parliament delicately kept silent about what caused the low yield on deposits: in 2020, the Central Bank's key rate was reduced from 6,25 to 4,25 percent. Money fell in price, and after that, of course, rates have decreased not only on loans, but also on deposits. The economic crisis and the unpopularity of bank deposits have partly led to the popularity of financial pyramids in the last 2 years, as Realnoe Vremya regularly wrote. People also rushed to the stock market.

From now on, testing of unqualified investors before transactions with complex financial instruments are being introduced in October. This should help people “evaluate their knowledge and the risks taken”. The tests will be free and without restrictions on retaking. “This will increase people's financial literacy and help them assess risks before they invest their money," Vyacheslav Volodin believes.

At the same time, those who have not been able to successfully pass the test still have the opportunity to buy any instrument, but in the amount of no more than 100,000 rubles per transaction and under a special notice of taking risks. There is no right to make mistakes in the tests — this will reduce the percentage of passing the test the first time. The instruments for which testing is envisaged will include bonds with structural income, foreign bonds, foreign stocks, foreign non-sponsored ETFs and Russian stocks not included in the quotation lists. Testing cannot be done by phone or using messengers.

Roskomnadzor will start collecting data on mobile subscribers

Starting from October 1, mobile operators are required to provide Roskomnadzor with data about their subscribers. So far, only on request. Telecom operators will be required to provide Roskomnadzor, upon request, with some data about subscribers — legal entities and sole proprietors, in particular, about the user equipment they use, the fact of voice transmission, text and multimedia messages. At the same time, not only data about subscribers and the equipment they use can be requested, but also the results of subscriber checks for the reliability of the information they provided about themselves and the location of their phones.

“This is part of the measures aimed at combating gray SIM cards," the State Duma says. However, experts believe that the scale of the requested information will violate the secrecy of communication. Moreover, only law enforcement agencies had access to the data that Roskomnadzor can now obtain. Besides, observers draw attention to the fact that the novel threatens “the emergence of another megabase of data with the risks of leaks inevitably accompanying Russian realities.” MTS company, back in March of this year, called the list of requested information “redundant”.

TV is entering to the Internet in “two parts”, and news aggregators will be forced to analyse their audience

From other news of the world of communications, it is worth highlighting two more legislative innovations of October. Firstly, citizens get free access to the television channels of the first and second multiplexes on the Internet. Thus, “the unity of the content of TV channels in all distribution media will be ensured” (that is, both online and on TV). To do this, Roskomnadzor will establish the necessary software requirements. The first multiplex includes the Channel One, Russia-1, Match-TV, NTV, Channel Five, Russia-K, Russia-24, Karusel, OTR and TVCentre. Channels in the second multiplex: RenTV, Spas, STS, Domashny, TV-3, Friday!, Zvezda, TNT and MuzTV.

Second, the analysis of the audience of news aggregators will change. Since October, the mechanism for measuring the audience of TV channels has been extended to similar studies on the Internet: owners of news aggregators and online cinemas “will be required to provide an opportunity to study the volume of their audience: collecting, analysing data and transmitting the results to an organisation authorised by Roskomnadzor”. The register of information resources, the volume of the audience of which is subject to research, will also be formed by this department.

Electronic wallets used by online casinos and bookmakers will be closely watched

In October, control over transactions with foreign electronic wallets are introduced. Since October, tax residents of Russia must report transactions using electronic means of payment provided by foreign financial institutions if their amount exceeds 600,000 rubles per year (or an equivalent amount in foreign currency). The administrative penalty for non-compliance with these requirements will be from 20 to 40 percent of the total amount of such transactions for the reporting year. The reason for the innovation is forced, according to the market.

Currently, “an increasing number of banks, as well as other financial market organisations located outside the Russian Federation, provide their customers with the opportunity to make non-cash payments using electronic means of payment, including so-called electronic wallets, without using a bank account for this.” The high demand for e-wallets was caused by that tax residents of the Russian Federation were still required to submit reports to the tax authorities on the use of accounts (deposits) in foreign banks. But to report on how money passes through electronic wallets — no.

The authors of the bill admitted that this “reduces the effectiveness of monitoring compliance with currency legislation and does not contribute to minimising risks in the areas of countering money laundering and terrorist financing”. Who will suffer more from the new norm — corrupt officials, businessmen avoiding taxes, or opposition activists who are “financed by Soros” — time will tell.

However, real scammers also like to use such electronic wallets. As Realnoe Vremya wrote in March of this year, the Central Bank suspected one Kazan non-banking organisation of opaque transactions with illegal bookmakers and online casinos. It managed to pump almost 3 billion “gray” rubles in 2 months just through the WebMoney e-wallet.

“Сrews will tighten harder”: Kremlin continues to fight “foreign agents”, now Russian ones

If enhanced measures of analysis and control over cellular subscribers and users of electronic wallets can be considered as a whole not politically, then the new requirements for non-governmental organisations directly relate to domestic policy.

From October, the list of funding sources sufficient “for the recognition of a non-profit organisation as a foreign agent” has been supplemented. Now a Russian NGO, “which receives money or property from Russian legal entities whose beneficial owners are foreigners or stateless persons” is also considered to be a foreign agent NGO.

As you know, over the past six months, dozens of Russian-language media (mainly liberal-oppositional) and hundreds of their employees have received the status of “foreign agent”, from the well-known Dozhd TV channel to Meduza publication. Those who have received this status claim that they thereby lose advertisers, whom it scares away. By now, several websites have already been blocked, a couple of publications have been closed (including, for example, the VTimes media project, opened by journalists who scandalously left Vedomosti).

Here, “separated by commas”, we note another legislative news concerning changes in the activities of religious organisations. From October 3, it is prohibited to lead religious groups in Russia and participate in them for the following people: suspected of financing terrorism, foreigners and stateless persons, in respect of whom a decision was made on the undesirability of their stay and residence in the Russian Federation, as well as persons in whose actions the court found signs of extremist activity.

Census begins in October

Finally, the All-Russian Population Census begins on October 15. Citizens will have the opportunity to take part in the event on the portal Public Services until November 8. Besides, about 320,000 census takers will visit home. It should be noted that disputes unfolded around the date of the census at the beginning of this year. As a result, the secretary of the General Council of United Russia, AndreyTurchak, suggested to Vladimir Putin to postpone the All-Russian Population Census to October, “so that it does not coincide in time with the elections to the State Duma”. The president supported the proposal, and Rosstat immediately accepted the decision to conduct the census in October.

CEC Chairman Ella Pamfilova approved the postponement. The last time the census was held was in October 2010, when the population of Russia was 142,905,200 people. The census, according to experts and observers, helps to clarify statistics, and in addition, “so the state can learn about the life of Russians”. In particular, “job data will help to study the labour market, about ethnicities — which indigenous peoples are at risk, about age — for planning social facilities”.

Sergey Afanasyev