Welcome to our new Payments Insights newsletter, a morning email with the top news and analysis on the digital payments industry, produced by BI Intelligence.
KIDS SPEND LIKE CRAZY ON THE APP STORE, APPLE FOOTS THE BILL. Yesterday, Apple agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that will cost the company $US32.5 million in app store refunds — just a drop in the bucket for Apple.
The plaintiffs in the case alleged that Apple made it too easy for kids to rack up obscene bills on the app store. The problem was that the app store failed to make users enter their password every time they made a purchase.
The rapid growth of e-commerce and mobile commerce give rise to a host of ethical question surrounding how online payments systems should be designed. On the one hand, reducing the friction of checkouts with features like Amazon’s “1-Click” leads to lower basket abandonment rates, which is good for online retailers. And less hassle at checkout is generally considered good by consumers as well. On the other hand, the case highlights the fact that there may be such a thing as an overly slick checkout. (Washington Post)
SQUARE COURTS LARGE RETAILERS. Square CEO Jack Dorsey wants retailers to reinvent the receipt. He thinks merchants should send out digital receipts that can be used to communicate with consumers after they leave the store. The idea of using receipts to push offers to consumers isn’t really new. Dorsey’s real point is that he wants retailers to use the Square app for more than simply payments. The idea is to make Square more attractive to large retailers. Large retailers process more transactions than small ones, which means more money for Square. (Payments Source)
MASTERCARD EXPANDS IN AFRICA. Yesterday, MasterCard and Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) announced a partnership that will give MasterCard access to Ecobank customers in a further 23 countries in Africa. The deal expands MasterCard’s reach to 60% of the population of the continent. This means more competition for direct carrier billing companies that have struck partnerships with telecoms in regions where it is difficult for people to access credit. Direct carrier billing companies allow users to add the cost of transactions to their mobile bills, so they can serve as a replacement to credit cards. As more credit becomes available in these countries, direct carrier billing becomes less of a necessity. (MasterCard)
EBAY IS LAUNCHING A NEW MARKETPLACE FOR MERCHANTS. There aren’t many details out yet, but eBay is reportedly launching a new platform for brands to sell directly to consumers, according to TechCrunch via Macquarie Capital. The service is expected to launch in early spring. Merchants can already sell their products to consumers on eBay, but the new service would be oriented specifically towards business-to-consumer commerce as opposed to peer-to-peer commerce. (TechCrunch)
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PAYMENTS STARTUP ANNOUNCES $US15 MILLION IN NEW FUNDING. The Palo Alto-based WePay focuses on setting up online payment platforms for event registration and ticketing, invoicing, donations, mobile payments, and e-commerce. The Series C funding brings the company’s total funding to $US35 million. Co-founder of Discover and former Morgan Stanley CEO Phil Purcell led the funding round. (TechCrunch)
COINBASE STRENGTHENS THE SECURITY OF ITS BITCOIN EXCHANGE. The Silicon Valley-based Bitcoin exchange, Coinbase, has made a number of moves to make trading Bitcoin safer. The company now stores 97% of the bitcoins it holds offline, according to a company blog post. In addition, the safe deposit boxes where data for these bitcoins is stored requires two keys to open. These keys are held in different countries so that access to the bitcoins requires multiple parties to coordinate. Providing security for bitcoins is key to getting users to adopt them as a method of transaction. This is because bitcoin transactions are relatively anonymous, so if they are stolen or lost, it’s nearly impossible to recover them. If Bitcoin continues to grow in popularity, we expect a whole industry to spring up around securing bitcoins. (Coinbase)
GLOBAL PAYMENTS COMPANY SEES 40% TRANSACTION GROWTH IN 2013. San Francisco-based payments processor Ayden today announced that it processed $US14 billion in payments in 2013, up from $US10 billion in 2012. Payments made from mobile devices accounted for 19.5% of total payments processed. The news comes on the heels of the company’s announcement of former Netflix/PayPal executive Kamran Zaki as President. (Ayden)
ANDREESSEN HOROWITZ PARTNER SAYS A BITCOIN COULD BE WORTH $US100,000. Chris Dixon draws an analogy between the value of bitcoins today and the value of domain names in the 90’s. Dixon says the best Internet investment someone could have made in the 90’s was buying domain names which now regularly sell for thousands of dollars. So it is with Bitcoin, he argues. Because the number of bitcoins that can be created is limited, they are scarce. So as more people jump on board, the value of bitcoins will appreciate.
On the other hand, domain names have proven utility because they are needed to create websites. It’s not clear that Bitcoin will have the same type of utility since there are so many other ways to buy things. Demand is important for Bitcoin to be adopted as a payments network because demand ultimately determines what bitcoins can be traded for. If demand for Bitcoin is high and relatively constant, merchants will be more likely to accept Bitcoin as a method of transaction. Dixon owns less than half a Bitcoin himself — take that how you will. (Wired)
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