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French mobile operators and banks will extend their groundbreaking Near Field Communication mobile-payment trial through at least the end of the year, as results from the trial's first six months suggest both consumers and merchants like the new way to pay. Surveys from among the 1,000 users found that 57% of respondents have tapped their mobile phones to pay at any of the 200 to 250 merchant locations in two French cities involved in the trial. Of those, 72% said they would use contactless mobile payment regularly if it were rolled out in France, according to Laurent Jullien, director of contactless and payment services for French mobile operator Bouygues Telecom. And 95% of survey participants said they had no reason to avoid contactless mobile payment. More than 90% of respondents consider mobile payment just as secure as Visa- or MasterCard-branded cards as long as they enter PIN codes with purchases, says Jullien. "The customers are saying it's very natural for them to pay with a handset," said Jullien, speaking at last month's Contactless Cards and Payment conference in London. "It's normal, [and] it's faster than bankcards for low transactions." Consumers are conducting more transactions per month during the trial, which researchers launched in November, Jullien says. Average transactions increased from 2.3 per month in January to 3.4 in May. Transaction amounts varied widely but averaged 18 euros (US$28.38). Organizers do not require consumers to enter their PINs for transactions of less than 20 euros, but about 40% have elected to do so, just as they do with French debit cards. Merchants also like NFC payment. More than 80% of participants say they are satisfied with the trial, and 65% would recommend NFC payment acceptance to other merchants. Organizers plan to add some merchant locations and drop others during the next six months of the trial. Although mobile operators, banks, transit operators and others have launched hundreds of NFC trials worldwide over the past three years, the "Payez Mobile" trial in the French cities of Caen and Strasbourg is unusual in that it involves the country's three major mobile operators and seven major banks. It is also one of the few NFC trials that Visa Europe and MasterCard Worldwide are working on together. The trial also involves three NFC handset models and two suppliers each for point-of-sale terminals and SIM cards.

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