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Barclays signs CyberCash for e-commerce authorisation

As digital cash system fails to find favour, Barclays credit cards taking off PDQ

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Barclays Merchant Services (BMS), the division of Barclays Bank that handles credit card transactions, has signed US digital money company CyberCash to supply secure payment software for BMS' forthcoming Internet payment system, ePDQ. BMS is probably better known to consumers as PDQ (Pretty Damn Quick), the brand name of its in-store credit card transaction machines. The CyberCash deal is part of BMS' move to bring a PDQ-style service to UK e-commerce merchants. Barclays is hoping to push ePDQ as the definitive system for authorising and accepting credit card payments over the Web. This isn't the first time Barclays has worked with CyberCash. Last year, it licensed the digital money specialist's CyberCoin system, offering it to UK Internet users as BarclayCoin. The service went online in October 1997 in a trial in preparation for a full roll-out this month. However, like CyberCoin in the US and the numerous other digital cash and micropayments systems, BarclayCoin has failed to attract the big name merchants without which it's unlikely to attract consumers. After all, if your favourite Web-based store doesn't accept digital money, you're not going to sign up for something like BarclayCash. CyberCash has itself had problem coming to terms with the lack of consumer interest in an Internet-based currency. For all the (largely unproven) security scare stories, most buyers are happy using their credit cards for online transactions. And the anticipated market for micropayments -- paying small amounts for individual news stories or shareware downloads, that kind of thing, all of which would be uneconomic from a credit card basis since the issuers' fees are too large for merchants to make money on sales of about $3 or less -- has failed to materialise. So CyberCash has been remodelling itself is as a purveyor of credit card transaction systems, which is why it bought ICVerify (another purveyor of credit card transaction systems) back in April. Certainly Barclays hasn't been shouting about BarclayCash of late -- particularly odd, since it's supposed to be going live this month -- and it would seem that, like the supplier of its software, it reckons the future of e-commerce is the credit card not e-currency. ®

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