opinion

Alt Solutions For Mobile Billing

Bob Johnson

You have to give it up for the porn industry. It’s not enough that webmasters were once again on the forefront of technology, latching onto the mobile market as fast as they could figure out how to provide sex on smartphones, but the bean counters were able to nail the quickest and easiest way to fill their coffers.

But as quickly as the ability to provide compelling content arose, alterative billing methods popped up to assure that users would have no barriers to their favorite sex sites.

IVR is a very successful platform for mobile payments. It is a system that gives end users the option to make purchases over the phone via any touch-tone telephone, landline or mobile.

And despite some carrier obstacles, according to Austrian processor DIMOCO’s CEO gerald tauchner, worldwide statistics show that mobile billing is the most popular payment method except payment by cash. That’s music to the ears of enterprising adult webmasters who are enterprising enough to circumvent traditional carrier barriers.

While today’s accepted standard for mobile payment solutions is using a client’s data connection, Commercegate’s Bjorn Skarlen believes an often overlooked and hugely successful cross-platform payment option often overlooked is interactive voice response (iVR).

The executive points to his company’s service as an example of iVR’s efficiency.

“IVR is a very successful platform for mobile payments. It is a system that gives end users the option to make purchases over the phone via any touch-tone telephone, landline or mobile. To make a purchase, the caller keys in their credit card information that the IVR system then transmits to Commercegate’s level one PCi compliant secure payment system. Once the payment is complete, the customer is transferred back to the merchant phone service,” Skarlen says.

He explained that by using the IVR system, the merchant is able to process payments without having to handle or store sensitive credit card data which puts the billing and security risk squarely in the hands of the billing provider. The merchant is then free to focus on delivering the service and receiving the money. “As the system is level one PCI compliant, the risk of security breaches, which can result in heavy penalties levied by credit card companies, is eliminated,” he points out.

The IVR system also lowers processing costs by reducing the need of staff to handle phone payments. And the system can be customized to the merchant’s needs and programmed to play pre-recorded messages and background music based on the merchant’s specifications. The system can even be configured to call the end user directly in order to take payments.

Skarlen says, “Merchants who offer any kind of service over the phone, as well as merchants combining phone services with other media, such as online or television, stand to make substantial profits using this system, while eliminating security and compliance concerns. The IVR as well as other alternative billing methods over mobile is available on the Commercegate U.S. and European platforms.”

GTbill CTO Ron Moses has another take on what’s available in alternative mobile billing. He says in the short term most porn pros overestimate new technology but in the long run, underestimate the impact. He maintains that right now, most everyone is trying to figure out how to gain widespread adoption in point-of-sale and that e-commerce solutions for mobile are limited to simple SSL web checkout forms.

But eventually, Moses feels mobile payments will be pervasive and that the ewallet will emerge as the choice method of payment, connecting to bank accounts, credit cards, and any other forms of payment tied to your mobile devices such as your phones, tablets, or cars. “i think the future will have NFC support, such as Mastercard’s Pay-Pass, enabled for point-of-sale using a mobile device and a two-factor, password protected, wallet-pay system integrated for websites and applications that run on mobile devices,” Moses predicts.

Because traditional payment methods present various obstacles to the online sales experience GTbill’s stance is offer consumers a secure and easy method of payment. Considering that the company currently processes 164 currencies around the globe, it can’t afford to compromise the billing model.

DIMOCO, which focuses on operator billing offering alternative billing to more than 25 European countries, agrees that “safe and simple” are key attributes to any billing platform.

“We are in the lucky position of having a lot of expertise in the alternative mobile billing area. The challenge for us was to develop a mobile payment product that offers business customers and consumers the easiest way to bill digital content with the cell phone bill,” Tauchner says.

Wolf Kring, CEO of Germany’s 2000Charge is also a proponent of safe and convenient billing for merchants and service providers but he stresses that the consumer must also be kept in mind.

“For the U.S. Market we have looked at many different mobile payment methods and we have not seen a clear winner yet. One of the hot topics is whether NFC technology will be built into such devices as the iPhone, so our handhelds can talk to a cash register or similar device, which would allow for a quick and convenient payment transaction. However, we still have to bridge this gap as hardware necessity and merchant acceptance is a must in order for this model to be successful,” Kring says.

And Frankfurt, Germany-based Pay4 GMBH says program owners have to be cognizant of alternative billing costs, also noting the differences from country to country. A company spokesperson said sometimes billing could be done through the network operator, or through a SEPA direct debit transaction with one click that’s more convenient for most mobile users.

“Get the user to pay from his place of origin. If he joins your site by a mobile device, then you have to have payment in place which is comfortable to use on whatever mobile device he’s using,” Pay4 advises.

The company is also a fan of online bank transfers that it says fits into the mobile world as well as on the internet in more than 32 countries.

And don’t discount micropayments — a viable option still sitting in the wings. But as attractive as a low cost one-shot charge might be, Kring cautions that they’ll continue to be a challenge, explaining that single micropayments remain cost prohibitive for many existing solutions when merchant charges and fees are taken into account.

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