Select Committee on European Union Written Evidence

Memorandum by Mobile Age Technology


Mobile Age Technology offers a mobile commerce managed service providing banks and other financial organisations with the fastest possible route to secure mobile banking delivery, using WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and SMS (Short Messaging Service) technology.

  Its managed service is based on the fully scaleable and open architecture of BROKAT's Twister, the EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) platform, which is at the heart of more than 2,000 companies worldwide.

  Mobile Age is committed to providing the finance industry with an easy, "packaged" mobile service. It develops, implements and manages the service on behalf of an organisation so that it can get to market with a mobile/WAP offering in record speed. This allows an organisation to be on top of the latest technological developments without having to allocate resource internally to the project.

  The company was founded in March 2000 by Roy Smith, formerly General Manager for BROKAT Northern Europe. Prior to BROKAT, Smith was professional services manager for NetScape Northern Europe. Mobile Age is based in London.


  Q:  What needs to be done to create confidence and to stimulate e-commerce in Europe?

This question assumes that the issue is one of confidence rather than of market forces. It is my belief that the general population (assuming they have access to the Internet and the ability to use it) are no longer held back by fears of security or confidence in the commerce provider. As recently as two years ago, two of the UK high street banks were actively discouraging their customers from requesting Internet banking by suggesting that it was insecure. Two years later, and using the same technology that was available then, these same two banks are now spending large marketing budgets encouraging their customers to bank online.

  The one major technological problem that acts as a barrier to widespread online shopping is the payment mechanism. Cash is clearly out of the question so people are turning to the next best thing—their credit cards. This is not because they need credit, but rather because they need an electronic payment mechanism. Credit cards are currently the only game in town. Although payment cards, in some cases based on smart card technology, are in use in some European countries, there are no internationally accepted alternatives to the credit card.

  The general acceptance of the credit card as the Internet payment mechanism of choice is further evidence of the North American influence. Schemes such as Gismo and PayPal are electronic payment mechanisms specifically designed for retail consumers shopping via the Internet. A major boost to e-commerce would be provided by governments either endorsing such schemes or introducing state equivalent schemes.

Q:  Will codes of conduct and co-regulation provide sufficient protection?

  "Regulators are the hedgehogs on the information superhighway." (I wish I could remember who said this!)

  In general regulation causes more problems than it solves and has never yet successfully acted as a catalyst in promoting change. The Internet itself is proof enough that an unregulated system (or more accurately a self-regulated system) commercialised by market forces is the only way forward.

Q:  Should existing EU institutions' internal structures be changed, or new ones created, to improve policy development and co-ordination?

  One of the big problems that I see is that e-commerce is inconsistently defined, and implemented.

  For example, Parliament needs to decide whether the use of interactive digital television be considered within an e-commerce framework, or excluded? Likewise m-commerce. There are twice as many mobile phone users in Europe as there are Internet users.

13 April 2000

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