Visa, startup iZettle settle mobile payments issue

To start accepting Visa payments in the Nordic countries, iZettle had to introduce a third payment method

Mobile card payments startup iZettle has settled its payments dispute with Visa Europe and can now accept Visa payments in Norway, Finland and Denmark, the company announced on Tuesday.

To accept Visa, iZettle had to add a new method for mobile payments to its service.

iZettle is a Swedish mobile payments startup that wants to help small merchants like plumbers, gardeners and housekeepers start accepting card payments with their smartphones. While announcing its official out-of-beta release in the Nordic countries, iZettle also announced it could start accepting Visa payments again.

"Visa acceptance in Denmark, Finland and Norway has been restored, as it was shut down by Visa Europe in August 2012 due to a policy decision," said iZettle spokeswoman Wilhelmina Douglas in an email. The Visa Europe spokesman did not respond to questions when asked if security issues were involved in Visa's decision to clock services to iZettle.

To accept Visa payments in the Nordics, iZettle had to introduce a third payment option. Instead of using a chip-based card reader, Visa customers enter their phone number in the iZettle app on the merchants' phone and will then, via a text message, be directed to a secure site on their own smartphone where they can input their card details in a form. The customer gets an onscreen confirmation if the payment is accepted and the merchant receives a notification in the app that the sale has gone through.

"It's not our preferred solution, but it is compliant with all Visa Europe's regulations, so that's the way we have to do it to enable users to accept Visa cards," said Douglas, adding that the Visa-approved method of paying  in Denmark, Finland and Norway is "not as easy as a regular payment with iZettle."

In a regular iZettle payment, customers slide their card into a card reader that plugs into the merchant's smartphone, after which they tap "pay" and sign for the transaction on the smartphone screen. Alternatively, if the merchant does not have a card reader, he can choose a manual card payment where the customer's card number, validity and cvc number have to be entered.

Visa Europe has issued its own guidelines for transactions in certain countries, Douglas said, adding that branches of the company are less strict in other countries. "We've always had a positive dialogue with Visa Sweden and they have decided to approve our service for use here," she said.

"We are continuing to work with iZettle to develop a fully Visa Europe compliant mobile point of sale solution," a Visa Europe spokesperson said in an email. "In the meantime iZettle merchants can support Visa card acceptance through an e-commerce transaction on the cardholder's phone."

As of Tuesday, iZettle is out of beta and commercially available for individuals and businesses in Denmark, Finland and Norway. Interested merchants can download the iZettle app to their Android or iOS devices for free and can buy a card reader for ¬24 (US$30) with a voucher toward iZettle transaction fees of the same amount, the company said. iZettle charges 2.75 percent of all payments made.

iZettle officially launched in Sweden a year ago, and in Germany and the U.K. in the past few weeks. The company is planning to expand in Europe as well as outside of Europe, Douglas said. In the European market the company competes with similar mobile payments startups like Payleven, based in Germany, and Elavon, a company that is active in the U.K. and Ireland.

A similar service is offered in the U.S. by Square. iZettle is not planning to operate in the U.S. because that is a magstripe market, and iZettle focuses on EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) based chip cards, said Douglas. "And as far as we now, there's a big player there already," she added.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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