French banking group Société Générale is to introduce an NFC payments service in the city of Strasbourg this autumn.
Customers wishing to use the service will be able to apply to the bank, either online or at a branch, and provide the bank with their mobile phone number and details of their mobile network operator.
The bank will then check that the user has a compatible Cityzi NFC phone and then send the customer a PIN code and instructions on how to download the Visa-powered app to their device. The PIN is used to both access the app and confirm transactions made in stores.
“We create a new card account number dedicated to the service,” Jean-Paul Albert, Société Générale’s head of card products, told NFC World. “It’s not a prepaid card account; it’s a post paid card account linked to the cardholder’s current account at the bank.
“The user can make payments at any terminal in France that is contactless enabled. If the user is abroad, it will only work on Visa PayWave terminals. Whenever it’s an open loop, customers will be able to use the service; so if a Visa PayWave terminal is on board public transport for instance, they will be able to pay for tickets using the service.”
“We expect contactless terminals to account for around 30% of the market by mid-2014 but for now, the level of contactless acceptance is by no means as high as it is in the UK,” Albert added. “That’s why it will only be a regional launch in Strasbourg because there are more contactless terminals there and the local ecosystem is better.
“We will get initial feedback among users and see whether they’re willing to pay for the service. I can’t reveal at this stage what the price of the service will be but we will charge an annual fee that will be lower than the typical card annual fee in France.
“Based on the regional launch feedback and the development of contactless acceptance in France, we will decide when to launch nationwide.”
“To tell you the truth, bringing NFC mobile payment to the market is a long journey and it involves a lot of R&D work,” Albert says. “It’s not perfect yet; we want a good market where the ecosystem makes sense. There is a learn and re-apply process that we need to set; we need to test the water and take it from there.”