Saturday, March 15, 2008


PayForIt, the new payment service, supported by all licensed UK mobile operators, designed to make it easy to pay for low cost services on the mobile phoneRecently I had a chance to gt more familiar with PayForIt, "...the new payment service, supported by all licensed UK mobile operators, designed to make it easy to pay for low cost services on the mobile phone."

Also as an introduction I'll say, couple months ago in Boston TiE Wireless meeting on the subject of Mobile payments, I was thinking "why are US startups reinventing the wheel when there's a live, successful reference across the pond?"

To the benefit of PayForIt I'll say it's a game changing cross carrier play. And everything cross-carrier, IMO, is good. PayForIt specifically allows ANY retailer, small as large, to bill for their content: Brands, bands, artists, developers,.... Awesome.
It's pretty thought through and good UI:
(Source) "PayForIt has almost completely eradicated failed transactions, says Bango research."

Complements done, one fundamental gap is the following (check out the latest scheme rules Section R1.5.1):
"all mobile screens presented to the consumer by Accredited Payment Intermediaries"


Consumers visit the retailer page, discover content, then being handed over to this "Accredited Payment Intermediaries" page to pay, and then, well, hopefully, are redirected back to to redeem their paid content.

PayForIt Flow; Image Courtesy MX TelecomImage courtesy: MXTelecom

I have two reservations with this model:
  • Technical: While this may have been an acceptable model in the internet, it is (IMO) unacceptable in the mobile web. What if you enter a tunnel as you just got charged? who knows you paid? does the retailer have an idea you paid? can you redeem the content you just paid for? this has clearly not been thought through
  • Commercial: This is just asking for a brawl over who owns the customer for support (the retailer, obviously) or for marketing (Oh, now that's different: I can see the operator, billing vendor, retailer and content owner having a blast over this)
Now I can see why the operators and the "Accredited Payment Intermediaries" would put this in place to save them the cheerful chore of trying to police what's happening on their network. I also acknowledge their past bad experience with retailers who offered content with dodgy small print terms.

But there's some sense to be put in as well. The billing transaction could have been completed just as well through a billing web service backend API, and the operators/billing vendors can have alternative ways to police what's presented and enable billing only after their approval.

Handing over the consumer for billing is a bad idea and calls for trouble. The retailer should own the experience end-to-end.

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