By Scott Blakeley, Esq.
Blakeley & Blakeley, LLP
Apple has made a media splash with its announcement of Apple Pay, the latest foray of a tech company entering the mobile card payment space. While the B2B space has been slow to embrace electronic payment channel alternatives, especially those designed for smart phones and tablets, these alternatives are thriving in the B2C space. In another article “Payment Channel Alternative (Traditional and Emerging) For The Customer (And The Credit Team’s Preferences),” Lyle Wallis (VP Research, CRF) and I considered the topic of mobile payments. Apple Pay advances this payment form. But does Apple Pay provide insight for the credit team in the B2B space of what the payment channel may look like in the near future?
The Mobile Wallet: A B2B Payment Channel in the Near Term?
Electronic payments, especially in mobile form, are showing to be a most efficient and cost effective payment channel. Banks have invested in mobile options, which allow consumers to deposit checks, view balances and make transfers between accounts, all from their smart phone or tablet. Javelin Strategy and Research estimates that the average cost for a mobile banking transaction (deposit or transfer) is 50% cheaper than a desktop computer transaction and 90% cheaper than an ATM transaction. It costs J.P. Morgan Chase $0.03 to process a customer’s mobile check deposit, versus $0.65 where the customer physically deposits a paper check.
The mobile wallet has arrived. A mobile wallet can be peer-to-peer, consumer-to-business, or both. To use a mobile wallet, the consumer registers a new account with a provider and then connects that mobile wallet to their existing debit card and bank account. Once money is loaded onto the digital wallet, it can be sent to other peers and/or businesses also on the mobile wallet network. Then, should they desire, the consumer may “cash out” all or a certain percentage of their mobile wallet, and the funds are automatically routed back to the original bank account.
Consumers may choose a variety of mobile wallets: Google, Amazon, PayPal, Square, Venmo, and now Apple. Apple announced that its new iPhone 6 and digital watch give users the ability to pay for products and services just by tapping the device to payment terminals using Apple Pay. The service is a take-off of the Google Wallet, which has been available on Android phones since 2011. The mobile payment system uses a technology known as Near Filed Communication (NFC), which transmits a radio signal between the device (smartphone in this instance) and a receiver, when the two are fractions of an inch apart or touching.
Apple Pay, Data Breach and Card Security: Applications to the B2B Space?
The headlines regarding the Home Depot, Target Stores and Neiman Marcus data breaches have affected hundreds of millions of their customers. Vendors rolling out card payment programs in the B2B space are reminded to consider a cardholder’s privacy rights when they store the cardholder’s card information electronically. Apple recognizes the significance of cardholder privacy and intends to distinguish itself through greater card security. Major payment networks and banks have all been working on a system that allows customers to make a payment without handing over any personal details, using a kind of digital token that can be used only once. Apple Pay is the first program to use the tokenization system on a widespread basis. With each Apple Pay transaction, a user’s credit card number won’t pass through the system, just a scrambled, one-time code that can’t be used in any future transaction.
If a retailer’s systems are hacked, Apple Pay customers’ personal information is not compromised. The service also requires a thumbprint scan for each transaction, meaning that only the phone’s owner can use it to make purchases–a stolen smartphone cannot be used for fraudulent purchases. The devices’ operating software iOS 8 will also encrypt more of the user’s personal data (photos, messages, email, contacts, call history, iTunes content), where previous versions of iOS only encrypted a device’s email. These added security features are important and one of the reasons that Apple Pay has won over credit card companies and retailers. The iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch will use Apple Pay at merchant locations that have purchased the hardware that can read the wireless signal from Apple’s devices. Because merchants are already under pressure to upgrade their POS systems to accept EMV, a new card technology to reduce fraud, there is thus greater opportunity to add-on the NFC technology at the same time. Upgrades to POS systems have been mandated by the credit card companies and must be in place by late 2015 else the merchant will be liable for fraudulent credit card use.
Both Visa and MasterCard are on board with Apple Pay, and Apple is not charging them for allowing their products on Apple phones. Banks have agreed to accept lower fees from Apple than what they usually accept on credit card transactions, with their hope that cardholders will opt to use the technology in place of cash and other payment methods, thereby driving up the total number of transactions. Safer credit card transactions will lower the instance of fraud and thereby reduce card fees for everyone.
Apple Pay and B2B Implications
Can mobile solutions accommodate transactions in the B2B space? Mobile payment technologies have focused on the consumer sector. However, given the push for electronic payment alternatives in the B2B space, developers are pursuing B2B mobile payment technologies. Will businesses move to this payment channel, given the transactional efficiency and low processing costs of mobile payments? According to the AFP, only 11% of US companies surveyed are using mobile payment technologies.
Apple Pay is presently geared toward brick and mortar stores. Online application for card-not-present transactions is a key for the B2B space. The single use nature of Apple Pay technology (digital token) rules out use for multiple transactions (the credit team storing a card on file).
Applications will be developed that provide for Apple Pay technology to be used to pay vendor invoices in the near term.
Scott Blakeley, Esq., is a founder of Blakeley & Blakeley LLP, where he advises companies around the United States and Canada regarding creditors’ rights, commercial law, e-commerce and bankruptcy law. He can be reached at his email address.