About half of the population of Belgium will be using smartphones by the end of next year, making the time ripe for a mobile payments push.
Its going to be an expectation, and most of the mobile payments that exist are focused on e-commerce and not at the point of sale. Well be going after the point of sale, says Frederic Jonnart, director of marketing and sales for the Brussels-based bpost, which has about 1 million customers.
The bank plans to launch contactless payments early next year, with an initial deployment at about 67 McDonalds locations in Belgium. The Swedish mobile payments technology company Seamless will provide the technology, which is designed to link directly to the bank account.
Seamless did not disclose the exact fees for the mobile payment service, but says its generally less than card fees because the transactions do not include cards. Seamless has built its own transaction and payment switches and has its own transaction infrastructure.
We connect directly to the users bank account, its an ACH connection and not a connection to a credit product, says Bogdan Sacuiu, Seamless chief sales officer.
Bposts consumers will use the Seamless mobile payment application, called SEQR. After initiating a payment, users enter a PIN. Consumers use the phone to scan a bar code sticker from Seamless that merchants attach to cash registers. Users then tap a button on the phone to send the payment information to the SEQR software, which confirms the cash register and sends the sale information to the phone for authorization. The bank verifies the information and confirms the money is in the account.
The model fits with the Belgian publics payments tendencies, says Seigfried Couge, a product manager at bpost.
The consumer does not have to bother with linking to a credit card, and can see the balance whenever he or she executes a payment, Couge says. Belgium is a debit country and having control and view of balance is a very important element.
The lack of cards also removes steps for merchants, Couge says, adding the stickers replace the need to upgrade to new terminals. Given the lower costs, we feel this will be attractive to the merchants, Couge says.
Seamless has introduced mobile payments to six other countries and plans to launch in the U.S. early in 2014. The Stockholm-based company was founded in 2001 and has an existing payments processing business that handles about 3.1 billion transactions each year in more than 30 countries, with more than a half million merchant locations.
The existing scale allows Seamless to upgrade merchants to accept mobile payments quickly, Sacuiu says. For example, a Swedish supermarket chain recently migrated 2,500 point of sale locations in 10 days at about 500 locations, Sacuiu says.
There is a huge advantage for the merchant to be able to enroll and accept mobile payments that quickly, he says. It helps when building the case for mobile.
The company does face some headwinds. In an earlier interview with PaymentsSource, Celent senior analyst Zil Bareisis said the payment guarantee for the merchant and who takes on the risk of unavailable funds may be a challenge.