European wallets, Alipay partner to standardize QR code payments for travelers

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European mobile wallet providers Bluecode, ePassi, Momo pocket, Pagaqui, Pivo, and Vipps are working together with China's Alipay for the first time to promote a unified, interoperable QR code that would connect Europe's current fragmented mobile payment landscape.

As a result, travelers in Europe and those visiting from China will soon be able to make a QR code payments at any merchant accepting the technology — regardless of which major mobile wallet the consumer presents at the point of sale.

Helsinki-based ePassi and Oslo-based Vipps have started to prepare the rollout of this QR code format for users across several Nordic countries, while the Spanish payment company Momo, Portugal’s Pagaqui and Austria’s Bluecode intend to support the collaboration later this summer in their respective home markets.

Built on the back of a similar partnership announced in December between two Nordic firms (Vipps and ePassi) and Alipay, this open-ended collaboration is expected to continue to expand into more European countries and involve more wallets in the future.

"With over 12 years’ experience, ePassi is already a mobile payments front-runner in QR code-based payments in the Nordic and selected European countries," Risto Virkkala, CEO of ePassi, said in a Monday press release. "We are proud and honored to be part of this unique collaboration of European payment wallets, and to support other partners with their integration as well.”

The partnership supports the analysis of those in the payments industry who have forecast a significant boost in QR code use in the next five years. Still, some merchants and banks have taken a more cautious approach in embracing the payments technology, mainly because it relies heavily on a solid WiFi network.

When the unified code is in place, users of the six participating European digital wallets and China's Alipay will be able to make QR code-based payments with their home apps to local merchants in 10 European countries.

Merchants that already accept mobile payments via the six apps in their respective domestic markets will also be able to accept payments made by customers of the other countries covered by the collaboration.

The partnering firms have agreed to apply a compatible QR code format provided by Alipay, which has made significant inroads with QR mobile payments through its massive social media channel user base. In many ways, Alipay and rival WeChat Pay have transformed how Chinese citizens make payments and interact with merchants on their smartphones.

Alipay currently serves more than 1 billion users, while the combined number of users for the six European mobile wallets is estimated at more than 5 million, with 190,000 merchants accepting their payments in Europe.

Mobile wallets ePassi and Bluecode will offer technical services to the participating wallets to simplify the integration process for the single code.

“It has always been our vision to enable European banks with a widely accepted European mobile payment offering,” Christian Pirkner, CEO of Blue Code International, said in the release. “As a payment solution provider, we naturally support this collaboration of European wallets agreeing on a technical format. Even more compelling, is that it is compatible with Asia’s leading lifestyle app Alipay.”

Alipay’s technology is being used to enable more than 200 Chinese financial institutions to improve efficiency and lower operational costs. Alipay’s in-store payment service covers more than 50 markets across the world, and tax reimbursement via the app is supported in 35 markets.

“We feel honored to help promote a smart lifestyle and digital experiences in Europe, while continuing to connect more merchants with more Chinese tourists," Eric Jing, chairman and CEO at Ant Financial, the parent company of Alipay, said in the release.

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Mobile wallets Ant Financial Europe China