May 20, 2011 12:44 pm

First mobile payments service launched

The first mobile phone payment system has been launched in the UK.

Orange and Barclaycard have introduced phone readers into 50,000 stores, including Pret A Manger and McDonalds, which will allow customers to buy items of £15 or less with their phone.

The contactless mobile phone payments system uses a Barclaycard reader to scan specially enabled Orange handset. The new handset will be available for sale from Friday.

Customers can request sums of up to £100 to be transferred to their phone, and can then use the phone to make small purchases.

So far just one handset will be available with the Near Field Communication (NFC) system, short-range wireless technology used in many wireless payment systems. The Samsung Tocco Lite phone will be available for £59.99 on pay-as-you-go or for free on pay-monthly contracts from £10 per month on 24 month contracts.

Mobile phone payment is more popular overseas than in the UK, where online shopping and credit and debit cards are the preferred purchasing methods.

Research agency TNS found that across the world demand for mobile banking services rose by 50 per cent. Growth was fastest in developing markets where people have leapfrogged traditional banking services in favour of accessing finance through their phones. One in five phone users in Kenya, for example, use mobile banking.

David Chan, CEO of Barclaycard Consumer Europe, said the new system, dubbed QuickTouch, was secure and convenient. Phone users will be able to set a PIN on their handset and payments made will be subject to the same 100 per cent fraud guarantee as standard transactions. The firms involved hope mobile payments will become as popular as credit cards, first launched in the UK 40 years ago.

However analysts say take-up of the new payments system in the UK, where consumers already use debit cards to make small payments, may be slow.

O2 trialled contactless payments in Spain, allowing funds to be taken directly from a customer’s bank account. It also teamed up with Nokia to embed Oyster cards used by London commuters into a mobile phone.

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