PAYMENT VIA CELLPHONE NUMBER – PROVIDER PAYMENT FIELD TEST By Maik Klotz
I dedicated almost a week to the topic provider payment. Provider payment means that payments are made via the cellphone bill. The cellphone number acts as authentication and the sent TAN number legitimizes the transaction. The latter is often not even necessary for purchases made directly on the smartphone, e.g. from Google Play Store. This payment method has been in use for many years, mainly to sell mobile games or ring tones. But not only that – in some German cities, parking vouchers can also be purchased via provider payment. Today, this payment method is extremely popular for purchasing digital content such as newspaper articles. Unlike during my previous test to examine mobile payment in the retail business, no one came to any harm this time and everything worked. End of story. No punchline, either. Payment worked perfectly for the most part and in my case, I was always billed correctly. Although there are reports on the Net about users experiencing differently, in my test there were no problems whatsoever (and I hope it stays that way). Everything OK?
The procedure is technically flawless. There is nothing to criticize on that score. But where there is light, they say, there must be shadow – and
this is the case with provider payment, too. Whenever I was prompted to enter my cellphone number to make a payment, I felt uncomfortable. Admittedly, the feeling was a subjective one, but when I asked round, my friends said they felt the same. The main argument against paying by cellphone number is the fact that the cellphone number is considered part of one’s private sphere, and one fears that unauthorized payments could be made with that number. This is a problem in general for this payment method. This fear is not entirely unfounded, as amendments to the German Telecommunications Act show. These are to protect consumers from unauthorized transactions by means of the so-called third party supplier stop. Once activated, no payments can be made anymore via the cellphone bill until the consumer activates it again. If no such stop is activated, purchases are billed with the cellphone bill. If the mobile service provider does not provide access to the connection log, one has to wait until the end of the transaction to see if the amount was correctly billed via the cellphone bill. The advantage of provider payment is its simplicity and anytime-anywhere availability. Whether you are using a smartphone or a Nokia dinosaur, provider payment works regardless of QR codes or NFC. But payment is about more than just technology.Trust plays an essential role. The established payment provider suppliers have built up this trust over years, some more and some less. Compared with this, provider payment is like a black hole. There is no communication whatsoever, no contact person, no consistent image or information about even where one can use provider payment. A common interface to the customer is missing. Every other payment method is easily recognizable, even if it’s just a logo. It is a bit puzzling why there is nothing similar for provider payment. Similarly, there is no customer portal in which all purchases are itemized, no telephone number to call to stop provider payment or to fix a limit. With an app for the smartphone equivalent to a customer portal. A single, superordinated wallet, not another new insular solution. Considering that provider payment does not appear in a favorable light where trust is concerned, this is a grave omission. Conclusion Provider payment, or cellphone payment, is technically flawless, fast and easy to use. However, it lacks a brand, it lacks „one face.“ There is no visible support service, no one to call, no customer platform. Payments are made – the money is gone – and the payment transactor moves invisibly behind the curtain. This „secret personality“ is what makes provider payment appear difficult. Provider payment suppliers should also try to protect users from possible abuse and advertise the advantages of this method. Provider Payment suppliers should also set up a unified standard and a single communication channel to protect consumers from abuse and to demonstrate the advantages of this payment method.