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Vodafone has launched Vodafone Live Shopping, a virtual shopping centre where UK subscribers can buy items over the phone using their credit card.

The British mobile operator has formed alliances with HMV, Thorntons, Oddbins, Gagetshop and Firebox, and said it is looking to bring more retailers onboard.

On Vodafone Live enabled-handsets there is an icon that takes the user through the retailers and provides a list of the items available for purchase, with a picture and description. Users select the product they would like to buy, pay with a credit card, and the item will be delivered to their registered delivery address. In addition, Vodafone Live customers will be able to get special offers from each of the retailers.

Lance Batchelor, marketing director, Vodafone UK, said he believes that the shopping service will be popular among Vodafone Live customers. However, it is understood that the service will not extend to Irish Vodafone Live subscribers, which numbered 38,000 as of March 2003.

M-commerce is a growing phenomenon, but it is far more developed in Asia than in Europe, party due to the region's head start in mobile data services in general. But other hurdles have caused problems with various m-commerce initiatives in Europe, including disputes between operators, retailers and sometimes banks over what each party would earn on each transaction. Though perhaps an even bigger challenge is getting people to use the technology and adapt to a different way of shopping.

Still, the popularity of Vodafone Live could help boosts the service. By end of the first quarter of 2003, there were close to 220,000 in the UK, and over 1 million across the group.

© ENN

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