In 2017 EMVCo publicly released its QR Code™ payment specifications to define QR Code payments in a manner that works to simplify their development and broaden their acceptance globally. In this post, we look at EMVCo’s QR code offering, the benefits this work brings to the global marketplace and how interested parties can contribute to EMVCo’s ongoing QR Code advancements. 

QR codes are two-dimensional machine-readable barcodes, which are increasingly used to facilitate mobile payments at the point-of-sale. In 2016 EMVCo commenced its QR code activity to create a payment specification that reflected requirements across the payment ecosystem yet delivered universal consistency to consumers and merchants, by encouraging collaboration with payment industry participants.

WHAT does EMVCo offer? 

There are four aspects to our work in this area:

1. Development and evolution of the EMV® QR Code Specification for Payment Systems.
These technical documents support two differing QR code payment use cases:

  • Consumer-presented – the customer displays the QR code on their mobile device and the merchant uses an optical scanner to read the code.
  • Merchant-presented – the merchant displays the QR code and the customer uses their mobile device to scan the code.

The EMV QR Code Merchant Presented Specification can enable multiple different domestic and international payment programmes and use cases through a single QR Code as well as both account-based and card-based payments. It can also coexist with existing proprietary QR code solutions. This flexibility in the specification enables merchants to accept several QR code payment solutions from various providers in a standardised manner, using a single QR code.

2. Publication of Merchant-Presented QR Guidance and Examples.
Written for those involved in planning, implementing, deploying or supporting EMV Merchant QR Codes, the document provides guidance on how the consumer QR Code application reading the Merchant QR code should process the data. While processing of the consumer QR code application is outside of EMVCo’s scope, we recognised value in offering a variety of use case examples to outline the consumer transaction experience.

3. Management of the EMVCo QR Code marks.
These are available for use on devices facilitating transactions based on the EMV QR Code Specifications.

The QR Payment Mark may be used as an acceptance mark at point-of-sale in collateral marketing, as well as in-app on mobile devices to indicate the consumer may generate and display a merchant scannable QR code.
The QR Scan Icon may be used in-app on mobile devices to indicate the consumer may scan a merchant-presented QR code.

4. Establishing and managing the self-evaluation processes.
EMVCo makes tools available to EMVCo Associates and Subscribers to submit Merchant-Presented QR Codes for immediate evaluation or to get QR code samples to test their Consumer-Presented QR codes reader. The aim of this is to evaluate whether QR codes are generated or interpreted in compliance to the EMV QR code Specifications.

WHY is it valuable to the payment community?  

The technical documents define QR code payments in a manner that simplifies the development and potentially broadens the acceptance of QR code payment solutions globally. We believe that the definition and clarity provided by the specifications enable merchants to accept QR code payment solutions from various providers in a standardised manner. Consumers will also benefit from a more uniform experience that offers greater convenience and familiarity.

These industry benefits can be summarised into six categories:

1. Technical interoperability. The specifications can coexist with proprietary offerings and supports card-based solutions from domestic and international payment programmes, as well as account-based in a single QR code. It also aligns with other EMV Specifications and technology.

2. Confirmed functionality. Independent laboratory tests undertaken using a range of mobile handsets[1] demonstrated that QR codes compliant to the EMV QR Code Specification can always be read in less than 1 second, and usually in less than 500 milliseconds for phones under 33 months old. The format supports multiple payment options and the size of the QR code, i.e. the number of payment systems it supports, has no noted impact on performance.

3. Consumer familiarity. The use of the EMV QR Payment Mark and QR Scan Icon provide clarity and consistency in communicating QR code acceptance to consumers. This avoids multiple QR Codes being displayed at merchant check-out, and consumer confusion at the point of interaction.

4. Consumer choice. As multiple payment options can be presented through one QR code, it delivers wider choice on how the consumer wants to pay. It also provides consumers with an opportunity to access alternative payment methods, without necessarily requiring high-end devices with advanced functionality.

5. Implementation efficiencies. Optimising an existing and established global infrastructure offers the potential of cost efficiencies by utilising existing vendor deployment channels and benefiting from increased flexibility of processing options.

6. Global innovations. The EMV QR Code Specification provides the opportunity to use a standard, agreed baseline and draw upon global expertise to advance and evolve QR code payments in the future to meet operational and technical requirements and innovative functionality.

HOW can you contribute and access EMVCo’s QR Code activity?

EMVCo actively engages with organisations across the payment community to develop EMV Specifications. This collaboration is integral to EMVCo’s proven model for creating, evolving and promoting globally adopted specifications that support innovation and address marketplace needs. All interested parties can contribute their knowledge and expertise through the EMVCo Associates and Subscriber Programmes and propose new strategic initiatives and specification advances.

EMVCo encourages those engaged and interested in QR code for payments to join our discussions and contribute to the advancement of the specifications to ensure that they meet their long-term vision. Get involved, join the discussion and become an EMVCo Associate or Subscriber.

All EMVCo’s specifications are publicly available and can be downloaded without charge, royalty-free from the EMVCo website.

To access the EMVCo QR Marks, visit the EMVCo Trademark Centre and read the EMV® QR Marks Best Practice Use Case Guide for guidance on how each of the marks should be used in both consumer-presented and merchant-presented scenarios.


QR Code is a registered trademark of DENSO WAVE.

[1] 10 different mobile phones from 5 different brands released between April 2011 -2019 were used in the tests. Both built-in capacity and specific application for QR Code reading were evaluated.

Visit the EMVCo QR Code webpage to download the specification and access related material.

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