As U.S. retailers and banks keep searching for a way to make mobile payments work, the second-largest bank in France is rolling out its first nationwide system for Near Field Communications-based payments, Finextra reported.
Societe Generale said it is set to begin live processing of NFC-based mobile payments nationwide. About 2.5 million consumers in France have handsets with AFSCM's Cityzi payment system installed, or about 5 percent of French teenagers and adults. About 55,000 retailers have terminals that accept mobile phone payments.
The French have been working up to large-scale NFC payments for years, starting in 2007 with pilot trials in Caen (in northwestern France) and Strasbourg (near the German border). The trials were sponsored by AFSCM, a consortium launched by three French telcos that soon got banks and smartphone makers on board. A larger trial was launched in Nice (in southeastern France) in 2010, with customers able to use NFC-enabled phones to pay at restaurants, grocery stores, other local retailers and on the city's mass transit.
In the NFC-pilot cities, use of the technology wasn't limited to payments. For example, in Caen, NFC tags were installed at 1,700 bus stops to deliver transit information via smartphone apps. The tags are now used by consumers more than 20,000 times per month.
That steady use of non-payment NFC apps may be part of the reason for Societe Generale's confidence in launching a nationwide rollout. The fact that France's biggest retail chains—including Carrefour, Auchan, E. Leclerc, Casino and U—have all signed on to implement a single mobile payments system probably helps too.
But what may be most important are the retail uses of NFC that go beyond payments. For example, Carrefour's convenience-store chain offers an app that lets customers order groceries via mobile, then use the phone's NFC to open the locker with their order when they arrive at the store. Whatever pushes NFC to do something useful beyond payments makes consumers more likely to use it, which in turn makes them more likely candidates for NFC payments.
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