Bloomberg News

EU Weighs Mobile Payment Rules as Google, Visa, Apple Invest

November 28, 2011

(Updates with comment from Visa Europe in ninth paragraph.)

Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) -- European Union regulators may seek to spur mobile-phone payments as other regions take the lead in services attracting investments from companies including Google Inc., Apple Inc. and Visa Inc.

The region lacks a “concrete European framework” for systems enabling customers to make purchases using their mobile phones, according to a European Commission document obtained by Bloomberg News that seeks views on future regulation for the industry.

“As a consequence, the largest and most promising global m-payment initiatives are currently launched outside Europe,” according to the document. “Apple, Google and Visa have all announced major efforts to enter the m-payment business.”

Consumers may spend as much as $50 billion worldwide using their mobile phones by 2014 through a technology called near field communications, Juniper Research said in June. There were 7.1 million mobile payment users in Western Europe in 2010, compared with 62.8 million users in the Asia-Pacific region, the commission said, citing estimates from research company Gartner.

Mobile payments can be made either through the phone accessing the Internet, or through a chip being embedded in the handset that can be read at short distances by a payments terminal, the commission said.

‘Fragmented’ Market

Without measures tackling issues such as interoperability, security and collaboration between companies, the European market risks being “fragmented,” according to the EU document.

Chantal Hughes, a spokeswoman for the commission in Brussels, declined to comment. Al Verney, a spokesman for Google, declined to immediately comment. Alan Hely, a spokesman for Apple, declined to comment on the document.

Visa and Visa Europe Ltd. said in September they had agreed to license mobile payments technology to Google to be incorporated into its design of a new smartphone.

Next year will see mobile payments “really take hold” with European consumers, Simon Kleine, a spokesman for Visa Europe, said in an e-mail. “Advanced pilots are already underway in France and Italy, with successful trials also undertaken in the U.K., Poland and parts of Spain.”

Mobile phone makers including Nokia Oyj and Samsung Electronics Co. are also offering the technology and British phone operators Vodafone Group Plc and others are planning a U.K. platform to speed the introduction of payments.

Competition Authority

The commission, the EU’s executive arm, is responsible for proposing legislation that covers the 27-nation region. It is also the region’s competition authority.

The regulator is already investigating whether a group of banks shut out a rival payment provider from talks to create standards for online payments. This follows earlier probes into Visa Europe and MasterCard Inc. into the fees they charge on card payments made outside a user’s home country.

The commission is considering the need for further measures to rein in the card fees, according to the document. The regulator will seek views on whether there is a need for “intervention” to lower fee levels or make the charges more transparent, it said.

--Editors: Peter Chapman, Robert Valpuesta

To contact the reporters on this story: Jim Brunsden in Brussels at jbrunsden@bloomberg.net Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.


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