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Consumer Jitters Aside, U.K. Merchants Ready for Contactless Payments

Surveys find that U.K. retailers may lead the European Union in planning deployments of RFID-enabled payment technology, despite consumer fears regarding contactless payments.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 04, 2008Just as one study found British consumers to be uncomfortable with the idea of contactless payment cards, other unrelated research determined that they may need to get used to it soon, as retailers and banks across Europe—the largest percentage being in the United Kingdom—prepare to offer contactless payment options over the next few years.

For a report commissioned by Visa Europe, the Center for Retail Research, in Nottingham, England, interviewed 300 large and midsize businesses in seven western European countries regarding electronic payment systems. U.K. merchants were found to have the highest interest in contactless payments, with 65 percent of retailers polled identifying the technology as important or very important. The average of the other six European countries was 44 percent, indicating retailers in those nations showed less interest in using the technology within the next few years.


Geoff Barker
The report, titled "The Store of the Future 2012-2015," further predicts that 48 percent of European retailers will begin using electronic kiosks or PDA-type devices for reading contactless cards. The retailers most likely to do so were found to be those in Sweden and Germany, where 53 percent are expected to deploy such technologies.

Still, consumers may take some convincing. According to a survey conducted this past June by emergency-assistance company CPP, 88 percent of the 2,200 British consumers queried had never heard of contactless payment cards, including residents of London, where most pilots and deployments have been conducted. And 77 percent of those surveyed said they feared contactless payments would result in a greater risk from criminals, as well as increased credit card debt—both due to the card's ease of use.

As a emergency-assistance company, CCP provides assistance to those who lose personal property, such as missing credit cards, passports or licenses, by helping them terminate a stolen card, or apply for a replacement quickly. Customers can also use the services for other items such as mobile phones, by storing a phone's address book and other data in the event the items end up missing. CPP intends to provide the same services for contactless payment cards as the technology evolves. In other words, those with a contactless payment card can register it with CCP to have the card's data stored—such as its unique ID number—so CCP can have the account closed before it is used fraudulently, or have a lost card replaced, for a fee.

The survey showed a variety of responses depending on the specific region of the United Kingdom; those in areas where pilots have been deployed, such as London, were less likely to be skeptical of the technology. "However," says Geoff Barker, CPP's contactless cards director, "there is little awareness around the United Kingdom, including in London, which has been a bit disappointing. We do a number of surveys, some around contactless cards. The objective of the study is to provide a level of research to develop our own services."

While taking the CCP survey, consumers who had not heard of contactless card technology were informed as to what it entails. Of this group, 50 percent indicated they would be inclined to try it.

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