Mobile Payments: The Challenge of Protecting Consumers and Innovation
10 Privacy & Security Law Report 212, reprinted in 75 United States Law Week 2095 (Mar. 15, 2011)
5 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2014 Last revised: 11 Feb 2017
Date Written: February 7, 2011
The ubiquity of mobile phones has long promised to spell the success of mobile payment platforms — a world in which the phone is a universal currency and no one needs plastic. While such predictions have proven mostly fruitless in the past, there is increasing evidence that the next few years may bring a fundamental shift towards mobile payment systems.
The emergence of mobile payments promises substantial benefits for consumers. In the developed world, where the market for mobile telephony is mature, mobile payment systems have the potential to upset the existing balance between merchants and payment companies and provide new conveniences to consumers. For instance, m-payments may give merchants more ability to interact directly with the consumer, through in-store promotions and rewards that are delivered directly to the mobile device. In developing countries, the explosive growth of mobile payment systems demonstrates the potential for such systems to transition unbanked and poor communities into mainstream financial services.
Along with the hype accompanying this trend, some caution may be warranted. The shift to mobile payments has enormous implications for privacy, as unregulated entities, or businesses traditionally regulated under some other sectoral scheme, such as telecommunications, will have access to increasing amounts of financial and transactional data once only held by banks and transaction processors. In addition, regulators charged with overseeing mobile payment platforms face the challenge of identifying a framework that effectively regulates nonbank entities — ones without the culture or deep experience with security found in other sectors — that are nevertheless offering financial services bordering on those provided by traditional banking institutions.
Ensuring an adequate level of consumer safeguards while allowing for experimentation and innovation in a burgeoning industry was the topic of a conference that we helped organized with colleagues from the University of Washington School of Law entitled, Mobile Payments: Global Markets, Empowered Consumers and New Rules? This article summarizes the consumer protection and innovation issues raised by mobile payments and discussed at the conference.
Keywords: digital wallet
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