Sponsored by txtNation
Begun back in 2006 by all five of the UK mobile network operators ((MNOs) – 3UK, O2; Orange: T-Mobile; and Vodafone, Payforit is an instant mobile payment system. All UK networks are supported, including virtual (MVNO) operators like Tesco, Lebara and Virgin. In fact, any UK mobile number (which starts with 07x) can use Payforit. This kind of service is sometimes described as a mobile micropayment service but is also known ‘direct billing’ or as ‘carrier billing’ in the USA. It was originally viewed purely as a mobile content payment mechanism (for ringtones, wallpapers, etc) but has subsequently evolved way beyond that.
Payforit is the natural evolution of the earlier (self-explanatory) Simpay initiative which started in 2005 and is sometimes called WAP billing since any handset supplied with a WAP browser can use Payforit.
In essence, Payforit offers seamless billing for both content providers and software developer customers on UK web and mobile sites as well as within mobile apps.
The biggest advantage to Payforit is that it provides the consumer with the option of a payment using mobile billing – be it prepaid or postpaid.
Crucially, it can therefore reach the ‘unbanked’ – those who don’t have bank accounts, credit or debit cards (usually because they are too young) or who don’t want to use alternatives which still require a bank account.
Payforit is particularly suitable for and will be most valuable to, repeat purchasers involved with transaction values in the sub £10 range.
One great advantage for Payforit is that it is not necessarily restricted to the mobile sector.
There is great potential for a Payforit page to be designed to fit the look and style of any online merchant’s web site, therefore making the experience more seamless for shoppers.
The list of possible uses for Payfor it is almost endless. Examples are: – making one-off payments; making charitable donations; or setting up subscription services.
Possible new markets are constantly being identified – such as e-vouchers, CDs and books. It is also being investigated for a wide range of ticketing applications.
The Payforit scheme is being continuously developed by the UK MNOs to provide a consistent and transparent standard for paying by mobile so that consumers can buy with confidence.
Since its initial launch, Payforit reached its latest (fourth) version on May 15th 2012 and naturally it incorporated a myriad of improvements.
In effect, Version 4 saw two major developments: – namely Web Payforit and Single Click.
As the name implies, Web Payforit is aimed at users of the traditional web who may well also possess a cellular subscription.
The obvious candidates here are those with tablet devices and laptop/netbook users either with a built-in SIM card or a dongle.
Such users are being targeted given that a major increase in mobile broadband usage is widely predicted.
This is facility predominantly aimed at repeat purchasers. Once they have opted into the service they are able to make subsequent purchases with just a single click - no need to even input their mobile number.
Another facility introduced with version 4 was the HTML5 based payment iFrame that enables secure transactions without the consumer having to leave the merchants’ environment.
It is also worth bearing in mind that version 3 of Payforit supported payments from all mobile devices including mobile devices connecting via Wi-fi rather than cellular.
That’s vital given that many tablet users only connect via Wi-fi.
Accredited Payment Intermediaries (APIs)
Security and trust in the Payforit scheme is provided by the MNOs accrediting and contracting with a select number of payment intermediary companies – called Accredited Payment Intermediaries (APIs).
These intermediaries provide the MNO defined payment experience for consumers.
Their existence also separates the role of merchant (who is responsible for sale of their products to consumers and after sale support) from the transaction mechanism.
This is a model similar to other internet based e-commerce services. Only official Payforit intermediaries (APIs) are allowed to operate the service and you can find a list of them here.
From the consumer’s perspective
Compared with alternative payment mechanisms such as credit cards, debit cards, e-money accounts and vouchers, Payforit provides a frictionless environment while ensuring security for both parties (merchant & consumer).
With all costs clearly displayed before the consumer makes a purchase that is added to the subscriber’s bill, Payforit offers a quick and convenient way to pay for low cost goods and services.
Once the consumer agrees to make a purchase from a traditional web site or mobile website using a mobile device, a Payforit screen shows the product or service he or she is buying plus its corresponding price and the name of the merchant.
At this stage the consumer is asked to either cancel or confirm the purchase and charge it to his or her mobile phone bill.
The next stage depends on how the mobile device is connected to the internet fixed or mobile network.
Those on the fixed network are presented with a step payment screen where the consumer is asked to input a mobile number or send a pin code to a number shown onscreen.
On mobile phones the consumers will simply be presented with a ‘Pay Now’ screen if they have already opted in.
Once a consumer authorises the payment, a request is sent to the mobile network operator and the cost is applied to the next phone bill (contract) or removed from existing credit (prepaid).
Using Payforit as a software developer
Naturally, the facilities which a software developer would expect from integrating mobile payments via a systems such as Payforit differ in important ways fromthose of merchant.
What the developer is going to need is a set of simple and easy to use APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) such as those offered by a supplier such as txtNation.
With txtNation’s Payforit API connection, developers can gain access to all of Payforit’s advantages such as its ability to capture the MSISDN of the user for prompt payment.
For more technical information on txtNation’s API please visit the company’s web site here.