Government poses the "greatest threat" to the payment industry globally as the economic crisis leads to calls for more regulation, Eric Grover, CEO of Menlo Park, Calif.-based consultancy Intrepid Ventures, said this week during a roundtable discussion at SourceMedia's CTST conference in New Orleans. Governments around the world, including those in Australia, the United Kingdom, Western Europe and the United States, lately have moved toward enacting tighter rules regarding the card fees and interchange rates issuers charge, he and other members of the panel noted. Consumers facing job and income losses are driving much of this movement, as is the move toward a common European market for electronic payments, the Single Euro Payments Area. Fellow panelist Wendy Humphrey, vice president of business development and strategy at Greenwood Village, Colo.-based processor First Data Corp., shared Grover's concerns. Too much regulatory involvement could "stifle innovation" in payments, she said. Other speakers injected more optimism into the discussion. Though the industry should prepare itself for a "very painful" regulatory push, in the short-term that does not mean evolution will bypass payments, said Peter Ho, vice president and product manager for card services at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. There is "a lot of innovation that will happen, especially outside financial institutions," he said. Much of that innovation appears likely to involve mobile, said Remy de Tonnac, CEO of France-based Inside Contactless, a chip maker heavily committed to Near Field Communication technology, which turns mobile phones into contactless payment devices. De Tonnac sees a shift from traditional point-of-sale terminals to "mobile interactive points." The next 18 months should bring an increase in contactless payments that involve loyalty programs, he added.

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