Anything that can remove a ball from the financial juggling act that small business owners perform on a day-to-day basis is always warmly welcomed. It’s a fairly easy prediction to make, then, that the recent introduction of the mPowa – the UK’s version of the Square mobile payment platform – will be eagerly adopted.
In the US, which is further along the mobile payments technology pathway than the UK, the number of mobile card payments increased by more than 50% in 2011, reaching $86.1 billion by the end of the year.
Mpowa is a free app and plug-in reader that allows users to accept debit and credit card payments via their iPads, Blackberrys, iPhones and Android devices. As anyone who’s ever lost a sale through lack of card processing facilities will appreciate, the system is undoubtedly a good one.
But just how good? mPowa takes 0.25% per transaction which, though small, is still worth thinking about. More importantly, questions have been raised about the security of mobile payments systems.
When Square was introduced in the States in 2009 by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and glass artist Jim McKelvey, its popularity led to the appearance of rivals, such as Verifone and Intuit, and accusations that its products aren’t secure.
VeriFone openly stated that Square’s mobile credit card reader was easily exploitable. “In less than an hour, any reasonably skilled programmer can write an application that will ’skim’ – or steal – a consumer’s financial and personal information right off the card utilising an easily obtained Square card reader,” said VeriFone’s Chief Executive, Douglas G. Bergeron.
In response, Square’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, pointed out that “Any technology — an encrypted card reader, phone camera, or plain old pen and paper — can be used to “skim” or copy numbers from a credit card. The waiter you hand your credit card to at a restaurant, for example, could easily steal your card details if he wanted to — no technology required. If you provide your credit card to someone who intends to steal from you, they already have everything they need: the information on the front of your card.”
State-side bickering aside, the security features of mPowa might be enough to convince UK businesses owners of its reliability. For one, the mPowa system conforms to level 1 PCI compliance – the same level as a bank site. Furthermore, the exact location of each transaction is recorded, which, says the company, makes life “near-impossible for fraudsters”.