From the November 1999 issue of Startups

One of the final barriers to e-commerce is about to fall, and consumer shopping sprees are sure to follow. Several companies are introducing purchasing products that eliminate the need for consumers to release personal or credit card information into cyberspace. Instead, shoppers use PIN numbers and passwords, and have their purchases billed to them monthly.

Doing business on the Net? You should not only be aware of this new wave of payment options, but also actively investigating how to incorporate them into your payment scheme. Instead of inputting credit card or bank account information or completing long forms every time they want to make a purchase, customers simply enter their ID number.

The following are three ways to make e-commerce payments a bit easier--for customers and for you:

1. iPIN. One such global payment system, iPIN, takes place instantaneously, and doesn't require any credit-card or personal information because purchase charges are simply added to clients' monthly Internet Service Provider (ISP) bills.

When customers find an item or service they want to buy, they just click the iPIN logo next to it, then confirm the amount with their secret password. iPIN totals purchases over the course of a month, and then adds the amount spent to each customer's ISP bill, similar to a long distance phone bill.

"There's a tremendous amount of pent-up demand for this service," says Bradley Rode, CEO of iPIN. "Consumers want fast and easy access to premium content, without the hassle of credit cards and lengthy registration processes."

First-time iPIN users can set up their service in less than a minute, with no software to download or install, no need to prepay for special "Internet money" and no need to set up an open-ended Internet credit card account.

For content providers, deployment is fast and easy, needing only the installation of iPIN's free software--no other investment is required. ISPs can also easily install iPIN's software at no charge and integrate it seamlessly into the billing system.

2. PowerWallet. Qpass and eHNC recently launched PowerWallet, a new service that gives frustrated online shoppers the speed and convenience of a supermarket's express lane. PowerWallet fills in any form on the Internet, manages online receipts and keeps track of site specific user names, secure passwords and other shopping preferences.

Industry analysts estimate that 66 to 95 percent of all online purchases are abandoned midstream. PowerWallet addresses this crisis of customer satisfaction by allowing shoppers to fill out their credit card and billing information once, store it securely in the Qpass Network data center and then simply activate it with a mouse click to complete their Web transactions.

"If two thirds of the customers in line at your neighborhood grocery store threw up their hands in disgust before reaching the cash register, you can bet someone would be doing something about it," says Chase Franklin, founder and CEO of Qpass. "Our goal with PowerWallet is to eliminate the friction of lengthy order processes, the hassle of keeping track of different passwords, and the general insecurity of purchasing online."

2. eCHARGE MY PHONE! Prodigy Communications Corp. and eCHARGE Corp. have joined forces to offer new Prodigy members the ability to have their monthly Internet payment billed through their local phone bill rather than to a credit card using eCHARGE MY PHONE!

"More than half the world's online users don't have a credit card. And millions of people simply prefer not to pay with a credit card," says David Trachtenberg, president and COO of Prodigy.

eCHARGE provides a payment option that is fully automatic and quick, where transactions are anonymous and virtually fraud-proof. No pre-payments or passwords are needed. Prodigy plans to make eCHARGE MY PHONE! available by year end.

Contact Sources

iPIN: www.ipin.com; (415) 547-2700
Qpass: www.qpass.com
Echarge: www.echarge.com