M-payments scheme falls apart

Making payments via mobile phones looks set to be fragmented along national lines following the collapse of the European federation Simpay.

A future where your mobile phone could also be a Europe-wide purse took a step backwards with the collapse in June 2005 of Simpay. Following the defection of T-Mobile to pursue its own scheme, Simpay announced it would fold.

The venture, set up by Orange, Vodafone, T-Mobile and Telefónica Móviles in 2003, aimed to create a cross-Europe system allowing payments of up to €10 to be made via mobile phones. The founders talked about a multi-million euro market for the purchase of cinema, theatre tickets, ringtones, car parking payments and vending machine purchases. The single platform envisaged to cover 20 countries was planned for 2004.

The Commission had also been looking into relaxing regulations to facilitate the making of purchases using phones (see EURACTIV 17 March 2005).

However, the scheme was beset by delays and the inability of the founders, who were market competitors and therefore rivals, to agree. The result may either be the emergence of separate m-payment systems for each mobile company (with inevitable costs to consumers in cross-border transactions) or the fading-out altogether of the m-payment idea in favour of other technologies.

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