When Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) was awarded a patent this week to allow for anonymous mobile purchases—anonymous from shopper to shopper, not anonymous to Amazon—it could be the world's largest e-tailer taking its next step into payments. The actual money part of the payments are still to be handled through the same means Amazon does today—payment card, bank account debits, gift cards, Amazon Store Card, etc.—so it's not about Amazon becoming a processor. What it does, though, is add a layer on top to allow consumer-to-consumer transactions to be done without sharing private information with strangers. (Or, much worse than strangers, relatives.)
When this approach would make sense depends on the nature of the transaction. If the purchase involves the seller sending a physical product to the recipient, the recipient has little choice but to reveal name and street address. But for digital purposes, it could work well. And it might even work with physical shipments, assuming the recipient uses a post office box or some similar alternative.
In theory, this is how it would work, assuming Amazon ever chooses to use it. First, both of the parties have to sign up with Amazon, which acts as the broker. The system would issue temporary tokens, which would be charged against the Amazon's shopper's account. Once set up, a shopper could make a $20 payment by texting Amazon "PAY 20." A response would include a customer-specific code. The code might have a portion of the shopper's phone number and it might either have an expiration date (for a single transaction) or the code could be set up differently so that it could cover multiple payments.
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