Vodafone, Everything Everywhere and O2 confident of rolling out m-commerce solution despite European Commission investigation
Vodafone Everything Everywhere and O2 are confident the European Commission (EC) will give their m-commerce joint venture the go ahead despite concerns it will stifle innovation in the UK.
The operators which formed the joint venture last June would allow customers of all networks to use their mobiles as virtual wallets, with payments taken via mobile phone bills over a single secure platform.
Smaller operator Three has long been a critic of the joint venture – of which it is not a part and claiming it “raised serious competition concerns” and has heaped pressure on the EC to block the move.
Three’s concerns appeared to be acknowledged by the EC last week when its competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia issued a statement confirming an in depth investigation into the project had to be carried out before the green light could be given.
“The joint venture and its three parent companies may have the technical and commercial ability and incentive to block future competitors from offering their own mobile wallet services to customers in the UK, or to degrade the quality of these competing mobile wallets so they become less attractive,” Almunia said.
But despite the investigation by the EC the joint venture said it was confident of a ruling in its favour and maintained the service would have a positive impact on the UK market.
“We remain confident that an extended review will conclude that the proposed joint venture is pro-competitive and will provide robust competition to global players,” a statement from the companies read.
“The joint venture shareholders believe the proposed joint venture will bring significant benefits to consumers as well as all businesses and organisations that want to offer mobile market and m-payments services.
“At the heart of the proposed joint venture is a desire to bring to the UK an easy and simple solution for businesses to create and consumers to enjoy m-commerce services.”
Three meanwhile welcomed the move by the EC, maintaing its position the joint venture would not be good for customers and the future development of m-commerce payments.
A Three spokesperson said: “The proposed joint venture raises serious competition concerns. We support the Commission’s finding that this joint venture could block future initiatives in the area of mobile commerce services.
“We are pleased that it has moved to launch an in-depth investigation into the scope, activities and impact on consumers of this venture as well as the future development of the market for these services.”
According the EC officials must decide by August 27 whether the joint venture can go ahead.
The move to delay the rollout of the m-commerce joint venture has been welcomed by cloud integration, products and consultancy firm CloudSense.
CloudSense managing director Richard Britton said it was imperative that all stakeholders involved in the m-commerce sector were part of a common set of protocols.
“Before consumers embrace a new way of paying and start swiping phones instead of credit cards, it is imperative that all operators sign-up to a common set of protocols that allow for mobile payments to be used across a range of industries.
Banks, merchants, wireless carriers and phone manufacturers all need to come together and commit to one platform that provides a secure, payment architecture for mobile payments to truly take off.”
He also claimed the delay in the rollout of the joint venture would buy businesses the time to properly prepare for the rollout of mobile payments on a wider scale.
“To take advantage of the growing opportunity that mobile commerce provides, businesses need to align their payment processes with the changing way modern consumers shop,” Britton said.
“Today’s customers will be drawn-in by the convenience and functionality of mobile payments. To satisfy customer expectations, and offer a seamless mobile experience, businesses need to ensure back office processes are closely linked to the sales-cycle – from product selection and order capture through to fulfilment and payment.”