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Google, PayPal, banks, mobile networks in pay-by-bonk peace summit

Now we all we need are some actual customers

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The Electronic Transactions Association, a US body that promotes online business, has managed to get everyone involved in mobile payments round the same table, if only to serve their common interests.

The new "Mobile Payments Committee" will meet monthly, starting later in August, and the ETA has done a sterling job getting everyone signed up. Google will be there, along with PayPal, and also the US-operator-consortium ISIS along with the operators themselves, the banks, and the credit-card companies - but that becomes less surprising when one looks at the aims of the committee.

Payment network interoperability is mentioned, and desirable, but the focus is really on "education of legislators and regulators developing public policy around mobile payments", not to mention "the education of merchants and consumers about the potential of mobile payments" so this new body isn't really about setting standards but about ensuring everyone knows they've been set.

The technical side of paying for stuff wirelessly with a wave or bonk of the phone against a till is pretty settled now, and the European Payments Council has been working with the GSMA for the last few years defining roles and responsibilities within the mobile payments value chain. American companies have been involved in that, and the first round of deployments are making use of that work.

In Europe the political battle has already been won: politicians of all colours accept that proximity payments are an inevitable evolution and focus on protecting their constituents from possible fraud or increased liability. So Europeans can spend up to £20 without entering a PIN, and remain as protected as they are with chip'n'pin transactions, while users of Google Wallet still have to type in their four-digit code to approve every transaction.

The committee members certainly disagree on many things: Google, and PayPal, have complained to the EU about the British version of ISIS; Project Oscar, claiming that the overwhelming presence of the network operators makes their consortium anti-competitive. Verizon (an ISIS member) refused to let its customers use Google Wallet, opening itself up to accusations that it was abusing its monopoly access to those customers.

But one thing all the squabbling parties can agree on is that the public needs convincing that proximity payments are desirable, and if that's not done then they'll be no pie worth fighting over. ®

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