Wanadoo to offer online payment service

Wanadoo UK, currently running a campaign marking its rebranding from Freeserve, plans to launch an online “electronic purse” payments system later this year.

Industry experts say the move has been prompted by proposals from the European Commission (EC) and the UK’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) to restrict the use of premium-rate phone lines, SMS text messaging and pre-paid phone cards as a means to charge consumers for online content or downloads.

Wanadoo has 2.6 million UK customers, and those who sign up for the service will be able to create an online account that they can top up using credit or debit cards. The account can then be used to buy digital content such as ringtones, games, horoscopes, music and video securely over the Net.

The online purse system, administered by electronic payment services provider earthport, will also allow Wanadoo, now owned by France Telecom, and companies that offer goods and services via its portal to promote special offers to registered users, as well as collect data on spending patterns and response rates.

Another potential advantage to marketers is that parents will be able to set up accounts for their children. Children are major users, but most are unable buy online because they cannot legally acquire credit or debit cards.

The requirement for users to provide personal details should mollify the EC and FSA, which are worried about the use of pre-paid cards and premium-rate phone lines and SMS services for money laundering purposes.

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