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PayPal whips out barcode app for high-street glad rags

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Vid PayPal's barcode-driven payment app has crossed the pond and now works in all manner of UK high-street stores … as long as they're selling women's frocks.

Oasis, Coast, Warehouse and Karen Millen are chains that have taken the PayPal shilling - so (deep breath) wander into any of those, pick a new outfit, open PayPal's iOS or Android phone app, log into your account, take the item to the till, let the cashier scan the apparel's barcode and a barcode displayed by the app on your mobile's screen, and walk out knowing that your PayPal account has been debited.

The shop cuts PayPal a percentage for the transaction, rather than pay the levy demanded by the credit card companies - which justify their higher prices with fripperies such as free insurance and actual credit.

Payment schemes are proliferating at the moment: WorldPay predicts that alternative payment systems, including PayPal, already account for €165bn annually and that number will increase as a generation grows up without credit cards.

But as with any growth market, there will be casualties. While the corpse of Mondex is cold and PayBox was run out of the UK more than a decade ago, neither will be the last to fail. Most of the competitors, including Google and Barclaycard, are betting on the short-range-radio technology NFC to enable pay-by-bonk, which can already process transactions up to £20 (it's gone up this month) with just a tap of the phone.

But NFC handsets are still in short supply, limited to the latest Android handsets and a handful of BlackBerrys. It can't be coincidence that PayPal is launching its new barcode service exclusively across frock shops, where customers might not have the showiest hardware and might prove more receptive to a low-tech solution. ®

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