Metris’ Direct Merchants Credit Card Bank confirmed this morning it has reached a settlement with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency regarding its sales and marketing practices used in connection with an offer for a partially secured credit card. Under terms of the agreement Metris/DM will pay approximately $3.2 million in restitution to an estimated 62,000 credit card customers. The OCC also has notified Direct Merchants Bank that it may assess civil money penalties. The OCC discovered problems with Metris/DM credit card marketing during a routine examination of the bank’s operations. The agreement relates to marketing campaigns conducted between March 1999 and June 1, 2000. During that period, the bank mailed 84 million credit card offers. The OCC took issue with 13.5 million of the solicitations. Approximately 13% of the applicants received a card other than the one prominently featured in the promotions. Other issues identified by the OCC were primarily technical violations such as not properly describing a “processing fee” as a “finance charge” under the Truth in Lending Act. Pursuant to the OCC agreement, Metris/Direct Merchants Bank has agreed to refund all processing fees cited by the OCC. In addition, it has agreed to refund to approximately 500 customers the difference between the interest that they would have paid on the credit card featured in the offers and the interest they actually were charged on the alternative card they received. In most cases, the difference was 1% or 2%. Metris/Direct Merchants says the credit card offers involved were part of test marketing campaigns and were stopped before the OCC brought the matter to the bank’s attention. The bank also noted that all of problems were or have been corrected.
Coinstar Inc. reported 1Q/01 revenues for the North American core business were $27.1 million in the first quarter of 2001, an increase of 29.4 percent from the first quarter of 2000. Comparable revenues (for machines installed in the same location for more than one year) increased 17 percent. Direct contribution increased 35.1 percent to $14.4 million, as the direct contribution margin expanded to 53.0 percent in the first quarter of 2001 from 50.7 percent in the first quarter of 2000.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) increased 53.1 percent — to a record $8.1 million in the first quarter of 2001 — from $5.3 million in the first quarter of 2000. The company posted net income from the North American core business of $11,000, or breakeven, on a per share basis, compared to a net loss of $1.7 million, or $0.08 per share, in the same period last year. “We were free cash flow positive for the core business in the first quarter, and expect to be so for the remainder of the year,” said Diane Renihan, chief financial officer of Coinstar. “And, for the first time, our core business posted a net profit for the quarter — ahead of plan. We now expect to be profitable again, on a continuing basis, by the third quarter of 2001.”
“Our business has never been better,” said Rich Stillman, chief operating officer of Coinstar. “The first-quarter performance — including EBITDA growth of 53 percent — surpassed our own expectations. The strong volumes demonstrate the sustainable benefits of our advertising and promotional programs. Additionally, they provide evidence that the Coinstar service is non-cyclical. The solid direct contribution margin reflects the operating leverage in our business, as incremental revenues provide substantially higher unit cash flow. And, we have taken several steps to leverage the network through marketing and new product initiatives.”
In April 2001, the company announced its first national promotion of the year for the core business. In conjunction with Radio Disney, children who process $5 or more through a Coinstar machine will get a chance to win a trip for four to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. In March 2001, Coinstar also signed a strategic alliance agreement with DataWave Systems (CDNX:DTV.V)(OTCBB:DWVSF) and Michigan National Bank to begin testing the sale of MasterCard branded prepaid cards through the Coinstar network. Coinstar plans to begin testing prototypes of the cash card system in the second quarter of 2001, followed by a small-scale pilot later in the year, which could lead to a full-scale roll out in 2002. Coins that Count(TM) — which uses the Coinstar network to accept donations on behalf of nonprofit organizations — continued to expand, raising over $400,000 in contributions in the first quarter of 2001, compared with approximately $1,300 in the first quarter of 2000. In April 2001, the company announced its partnership with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which becomes Coinstar’s third national Coins that Count(TM) partner, joining the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and the American Red Cross.
North American Core Business Outlook
For the second quarter of 2001, the company expects revenues for its core business of $29 to $30 million, representing year-over-year growth of 18 to 22 percent. It also expects to generate a direct contribution margin of 54 to 55 percent and EBITDA growth of 60 to 70 percent, compared with the second quarter of 2000. For the full year, Coinstar is raising guidance for its core business. The company now expects revenues of $119 to $125 million, direct contribution of $64 to $69 million, EBITDA of $31 to $35 million, and net income between a loss of $1 million and a profit of $3 million.
Coinstar International. First quarter 2001 revenues for the United Kingdom operation nearly tripled. As announced on May 1, Coinstar plans to expand its service in the U.K. after reaching rollout agreements with two of the country’s largest supermarket retailers: Asda Stores, a subsidiary of Wal-Mart, and Sainsbury’s Supermarkets. “The U.K. represents an exciting expansion opportunity that leverages our existing infrastructure in the United States,” said Stillman. “Coinstar has attracted two excellent partners with a combined market share of 40 percent. With their support, we fully expect to repeat the success Coinstar has enjoyed in the United States.”
Meals.com. Coinstar’s 89 percent-owned subsidiary, Meals.com, posted revenues of $335,000 in the first quarter of 2001, compared with $14,000 in the year-ago period. Meals’ cash balance as of March 31, 2001 was $4.5 million. During the first quarter, Meals has continued to demonstrate its ability to help retailers and packaged goods manufacturers increase sales and profits. Using the Meals system, Ukrop’s Super Markets has experienced same store sales increases of approximately one percent, which translates to about $1 of incremental profit per household, per month.
On a consolidated basis, revenues increased 30.8 percent to $27.5 million in the first quarter of 2001. EBITDA increased 51.3 percent year-over-year. The company reported a net loss of $4.0 million, or $0.20 per share, compared with a net loss of $3.9 million, or $0.20 per share, in the first quarter of 2000.
STRATEGIC ALTERNATIVES ANALYSIS
Coinstar’s board of directors has completed the initial phase of its strategic alternatives analysis with J.P. Morgan. Based on a number of factors, including Coinstar’s strong operating performance and the analysis provided by J.P. Morgan, the board has determined that the long term interests of Coinstar shareholders are best served by Coinstar continuing as an independent public company executing management’s strategic plan. J.P. Morgan will continue to work on Coinstar’s behalf to consider strategic alternatives for Coinstar’s Meals.com subsidiary.
About Coinstar Inc.
Coinstar Inc. (Nasdaq:CSTR) owns and operates the only nationwide network of supermarket-based machines that offer coin counting and other electronic services. Linked by a sophisticated interactive network, the company has more than 8,500 machines throughout North America, as well as in the United Kingdom. Meals.com, the company’s majority-owned subsidiary, is an infrastructure provider that helps supermarket retailers and packaged goods manufacturers communicate directly to consumers through the use of online and in-store technologies.
For more details on Coinstar’s 1Q/01 results visit CardData ([www.carddata.com]).
Testimony at a U.S. House hearing this week revealed that federal agencies owe millions of dollars in delinquent credit card debt on government travel cards and that some federal employees are making personal use of the credit cards. The General Services Administration said that in March federal employees were at least 60 days delinquent in paying back more than $25 million in credit card charges or about 7% of the total owed. The GSA noted that Pentagon employees had $17 million in 60+ days delinquency or about 9% of the total owed. According to the Associated Press, government officials testified they have begun to garnish employee wages to combat the problem. The Department of Defense has also taken an aggressive position to fight chargeoffs.
VeriFone, a division of Hewlett-Packard Company and global leader in end-to-end electronic payment solutions, announced that it has received EMV Level 2 Type Approval with EMVCo for VeriFone SoftPay EMV e-payment software for all VeriFone terminals using the Verix operating environment, starting with the VeriFone Omni 3350 multi-application payment terminal.
The Verix-based Omni 3350, which earned EMV Level 1 Type Approval last August, together with SoftPay EMV, is the industry’s first EMV-approved solution to have a truly global platform. It offers the fastest time-to-market for merchants wanting to implement a complete, powerful EMV-approved multi-application solution that works across hosts and across borders. In addition, VeriFone’s Omni 3350 and SoftPay EMV solution accepts a broader range of EMV card functionality including DDA functionality and enciphered PIN, compared to other EMV-approved solutions, and has demonstrated superior performance in lab tests compared to competitive solutions that have received EMV Level 1 and Level 2 Type Approval.
“We are very pleased to see that the worldwide leader in EFT point of sale solutions is one of the first global companies to receive an EMV Level 2 Type Approval,” said Jeff Sachs, senior vice president, Global Acceptance at Visa International. “VeriFone’s EMV Type Approval is a clear message to our members about the commitment of the industry to this standard.”
With SoftPay EMV, customers don’t need to write EMV functionality. SoftPay EMV’s plug-in module handles all necessary EMV functionality, making it unnecessary to write EMV code for each new application. Instead, only host specific code, in a discrete module that doesn’t affect any current functionality, needs to be added to the application. This gives customers an easy migration path to EMV. The EMV module within SoftPay eliminates the need to go through the Level 2 Type Approval process whenever the host module, any other SoftPay module, or the SoftPay core code is changed.
“SoftPay EMV is one of the only global, modular applications that has been granted EMV Level 2 Type Approval,” said Eric Lecesne, general manager, VeriFone Technology and Product operation. “VeriFone continues to be among the first to deliver EMV compliant terminals and payment applications that meet global market demand for multi-application capability and a lower total cost of ownership, as well as easy migration to EMV.”
VeriFone’s SoftPay payment application is currently deployed in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Canada and the United States. With SoftPay EMV’s modular design, emerging markets can migrate easily to EMV, saving time to market for achieving Type Approval.
VeriFone’s EMV-approved Omni 3350 and SoftPay EMV solution has the speed and 32-bit processing power to easily handle the demanding cryptography and Dynamic Data Authentication requirements related to EMV compliance across borders, and across hosts. In addition, the Verix operating environment used by the Omni 3350 features application separation and file authentication to support multiple applications running securely on a single terminal and to prevent intrusion into the terminal’s applications. Verix also provides dynamic memory allocation to optimize the use of memory on the Omni 3350, maximizing the multiple applications it can hold. The Omni 3350’s 3 Mbytes of memory offers merchants plenty of room to add new chip-based applications in the future.
To date, VeriFone has shipped nearly 1 million smart card enabled terminals worldwide, demonstrating the company’s proven experience in delivering global smart card solutions. Other VeriFone products that have received EMV Level 1 Type Approval include the Omni 2650 terminal and CM 450, SC 552, SC 550, SC 542, SC562 and SC 455 smart card reader and PINpad products.
SoftPay is composed of a rich set of state-of-the-art, pre-certified transaction modules that seamlessly link into a complete merchant-ready application. Because SoftPay’s EMV module already has EMVCo Type Approval, it provides an easy way for VeriFone’s customers worldwide to migrate to EMV. This modular architecture makes it easy to tailor SoftPay functionality to meet merchants’ unique requirements. Adding payment capabilities is as fast and easy as selecting the appropriate module from VeriFone’s extensive library to easily create custom payment applications.
VeriFone’s new Omni 3350 terminal, complete with a built-in smart card reader, is designed to handle the performance demands of e-payment. The Omni 3350 uses SoftPay, VeriFone’s advanced e-payment software, which includes an EMV software module. In addition, the Omni 3350 features a triple-track magnetic-stripe reader, a 32-bit processor with a 14.4K modem, generous memory optimized with dynamic memory allocation, and a 12.5 lines-per-second integrated printer. The terminal can process all forms of e-payment and features high performance in a sleek integrated design.
EMVCo, the smart card standards organization, was established in February 1999 by Europay International, MasterCard International and Visa International to administer, maintain, and promote the EMV(TM) Integrated Circuit Card, Terminal, and Application Specifications for Payment Systems (commonly referred to as the EMV Specifications). The EMV Specifications, originally developed jointly by the three organizations, defines a set of requirements that ensure interoperability for credit and debit payment applications between smart cards and terminals on a global basis, regardless of where the card is used. The EMV Specifications serve as the global framework for smart card and terminal manufacturers worldwide. As technology advances and the implementation of smart card programs becomes more prevalent, the formation of EMVCo will ensure that a single terminal approval process is developed at a level that will allow cross payment system interoperability through compliance with the EMV Specifications. To view the EMV Specifications or for more information, please visit [www.emvco.com].
VeriFone (), a division of Hewlett-Packard Company, is the leading global provider of secure electronic-payment solutions for financial institutions, merchants and consumers. The division has shipped more than nine million electronic-payment systems, which are used in more than 100 countries.
Hewlett-Packard Company — a leading global provider of computing and imaging solutions and services — is focused on making technology and its benefits accessible to individuals and businesses through simple appliances, useful e-services and solutions for an Internet infrastructure that’s always on. HP had total revenue from continuing operations of $48.8 billion in its 2000 fiscal year. Information about HP and its products can be found on the World Wide Web at [http://www.hp.com].
Online credit card marketing is poised to achieve even higher response rates as home Internet access for households headed by blue-collar workers is growing much faster than any other occupational group. In the latest Internet ratings report by Nielsen//NetRatings, the growth rate for factory operators and laborers was more than double the rate of Internet growth. Homemakers were the second fastest growing group, jumping 49% in the past year to 2.5 million people.
Internet Usage By Occupational Groups
Occupation Unique Audience Unique Audience Percent
March 2000 March 2001 Growth
Factory Operator/Laborer 6,220,800 9,482,779 52%
Homemaker 1,632,756 2,426,776 49%
Service Worker 2,106,255 2,895,816 37%
Sales 4,171,692 5,608,095 34%
Clerical or Administrative 4,245,166 5,577,505 31%
Craftsman/Craftswoman 3,151,219 4,078,615 29%
Education 3,771,666 4,843,355 28%
Retired 6,596,334 8,463,125 28%
Military 1,306,205 1,672,232 28%
Self-Employed 7,429,040 9,176,883 24%
Professional 14,972,372 18,455,731 23%
Full Time Student 1,787,868 2,202,452 23%
Technical 7,192,290 8,789,414 22%
Executive or Managerial 11,910,955 14,397,510 21%
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings, April 2001
Despite the passage of bankruptcy overhaul legislation by both the Senate and House, an impasse over the makeup of conference committees has prevented the measure from reaching the president’s desk. This week Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said they have reached a solution to the make-up of the conference committees and have taken the plan to their caucuses. The plan would allow both men to serve as ex-officio of all conference committees, which would be equally divided between Republicans and Democrats on the Senate side.
National Processing, Inc. launched its new Investors Relations site providing greater access to information about the Company. The site contains both current and historical investor information, including financial reports, stock quotes, charts, and upcoming events. Additionally, investors will be able to request e-mail notification of news releases and important proceedings such as earnings releases and analyst calls. Interested parties can access the new site by going to [http://www.npc.net] and clicking on ‘Investor Relations’.
About National Processing, Inc.
National Processing, Inc. through its wholly owned operating subsidiary, National Processing Company (NPC(R)) is a leading provider of merchant credit card processing. National Processing is 87 percent owned by National City Corporation (NYSE: NCC) ( [http://www.nationalcity.com] ), a Cleveland based $91 billion financial holding company. NPC supports over 500,000 merchant locations, representing nearly one out of every five Visa(R) and MasterCard(R) transactions processed nationally. NPC’s card processing solutions offer superior levels of service and performance and assist merchants in lowering their total cost of card acceptance through our world-class people, technology and service. Additional information regarding National Processing can be obtained at [http://www.npc.net] .
Paul Stephenson has been named Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Fargo Electronics, Inc. (Nasdaq:FRGO), according to Gary R. Holland, President and CEO of Fargo. Eden Prairie-based Fargo is the world’s leader in innovative technologies for desktop plastic card personalization systems. “We are very pleased to have Paul join Fargo’s management team,” said Holland. “His extensive background working with manufacturing organizations will be very valuable as Fargo continues to grow.”
Stephenson brings over 25 years of professional business experience to Fargo. Most recently, he served as Chief Financial Officer of the Minnesota Orchestral Association. From 1992 to 1999 he was Vice President – Finance and Chief Finance Officer for Check Technology Corporation. His previous experience includes positions at Honeywell Inc. and KPMG International. Stephenson is a graduate of Cambridge University, England, and holds professional qualifications as both a Certified Public Accountant in the United States and a Chartered Accountant in the United Kingdom.
Elaine A. Pullen, President of Trident International, Inc. of Minneapolis, and Everett V. Cox, General Partner, St. Paul Venture Capital, were re-elected to the Board of Directors of Fargo Electronics, Inc. (Nasdaq:FRGO) at its Annual Meeting of Stockholders Thursday. Stockholders also approved a proposal to adopt the Fargo 2001 Employee Stock Purchase Plan by reserving 250,000 shares of common stock for use under the plan, and a second proposal to amend and restate the 1998 Stock Option and Grant Plan. Gary R. Holland, President and CEO of Fargo, reviewed 2000 operations and results, and discussed the prospects for 2001 and beyond.
Fargo Electronics, Inc. (Nasdaq:FRGO) is the world’s leader in innovative technologies for desktop plastic card personalization systems. Based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Fargo printing systems create personalized plastic identification cards complete with digital images and text, lamination, and electronically encoded information. Personalized identification cards provide physical, information and transaction security for a wide variety of applications including retail stores, e-commerce, government installations, schools, sports and recreation facilities, clubs and associations, and correctional facilities. More than 50,000 Fargo systems are currently installed throughout the U.S. and in over 100 other countries. For more information, visit Fargo’s website at [http://www.fargo.com].
Old news is shunned in the newspaper business, but now it might mean new money: Cold North Wind Inc. and microCreditCard Inc. announced today a strategic alliance designed to bring searchable images of newspapers in their original published form and the power of online content sales to the newspaper industry.
Cold North Wind generates new revenue from old news by digitizing newspaper archives on microfilm and then publishing and selling those images on the Internet. Together with microCreditCard, the Internet’s leading credit-card-based micro-payment facilitator and alternative billing provider, they will tour North America, educating publishers on ways to turn old news into real profits.
“We are excited about this partnership with microCreditCard. They are the best online payment solution around – it will be a powerful relationship,” said Bob Huggins, CEO of Cold North Wind. “Newspapers on microfilm provide us with a remarkable view of the past. Unfortunately, access to this material is limited by the locality of both microfilm readers and microform collections. Today, users want to get this information on the Internet. But digitizing these archives and then marketing them over the web can be arduous and expensive for a newspaper to undertake on its own. Together with microCreditCard, we offer newspapers a painless, quick method for converting archives and realizing profits from them.”
Cold North Wind’s process creates and publishes searchable digital images of every page in a newspaper — not just selected stories. Currently, most newspapers provide a limited number of online articles in ASCII form from the past five to ten years only. As a result, the sole method of searching newspaper archives is through microfilm, a time-consuming process. In February, New York Post and Cold North Wind Corp. announced a letter of intent to digitize and publish the microfilm archives of the New York Post newspaper and make it available on the Internet. Readers will be able to search and view the original printed format from the paper’s almost 200 year-old archive.
“We want to help publishers get past the online content sales hurdle,” said Leslie Poole, CEO of microCreditCard. “The Internet has great potential to act as a record keeper and revenue generator, but that potential has not yet been realized. microCreditCard eliminates a myriad of technical, administrative and financial obstacles, so that Web sites can realize revenue from content within hours. The best part is that our technology is applicable to an array of content formats, from music, to movies to articles. Our solution comes at a critical time when content providers are searching for revenue sources – microCreditCard and Cold North Wind are here to help.” microCreditCard’s products were created in response to content providers’ frustration with the difficulties and cost involved in developing a payment process. microCreditCard is one of the first companies to offer a micro-payment solution and its services suite is the only same-day solution enabling credit card transactions. Cold North Wind was attracted to the company’s ability to accommodate multiple currency management, subscription management, digital content management, and the ability to sell digital content either via subscription or in “unbundled” individual units, such as a single archived page.
Headquartered in Arlington, Va., microCreditCard, Inc., is the Internet’s leading credit card-based micro-payment facilitator and alternative billing provider. Founded in 1999, microCreditCard’s robust solution, which consists of a Content Gateway(TM), a Payment Gateway(TM), and an Aggregation Engine(TM), is easy to set up and allows transactions for 10(cent) and higher. microCreditCard offers three tiers of service – microCreditCard Managed, Managed Plus, and Premium – depending on the needs of the merchant. For more information about microCreditCard, visit its Web site at [www.microCreditCard.com].
About Cold North Wind
Founded in 1999, Cold North Wind is creating a worldwide online newspaper archive. The company turns newspaper archives on microfilm into high-resolution, searchable, digital images on the Internet. Cold North Wind provides revenue-producing solutions to organizations that hold valuable microform archives, as well as to distributors of online content. Through partnerships with newspapers, media corporations, micropublishers and content distributors, Cold North Wind is providing business solutions to enable publishers to create new revenue streams from archived materials. Cold North Wind Corp. is based in Framingham, Massachusetts. Its parent company, Cold North Wind Inc. is headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. For further information, please visit [www.coldnorthwind.com].
Western Union Financial Services, Inc., a subsidiary of First Data Corp, Banco Nacional de Mexico, S.A. (Banamex) and California Commerce Bank announced that they have entered into a strategic alliance to facilitate consumer money transfers to and from Mexico, beginning July 1.
Banamex, and CCB, both subsidiaries of Grupo Financiero Banamex-Accival (Banacci), will become a principal agent in Mexico for Western Union consumer money transfers. As Mexico’s leading bank, Banamex will offer the Western Union Money Transfer(R) services at its approximately 1,300 bank branch locations beginning in July and will add to the Western Union agent network in Mexico, which currently includes more than 4,800 locations.
“We are pleased to establish this relationship with Western Union, and to offer their premium, value-added services to consumers throughout Mexico,” said Manuel Medina Mora, chief executive officer for Banacci. “The Mexican immigrant population represents the largest group of Hispanics living in the U.S. They have a growing need to send monies back home with the highest standard of convenience, safety and reliability. With this agreement, Western Union, a global leader in providing money transfer services, and Banamex, Mexico’s leader in the delivery of quality financial services, come together to offer a first-class money transfer experience between Mexico and the United States.”
“For more than a century, Western Union and Banamex each have served the Mexican market, and consumers have trusted and relied on us to handle their banking and money transfer needs,” said Charles T. Fote, president and chief operating officer for First Data Corp. “By bringing together our two powerful and recognized brands we will offer consumers tremendous peace of mind in knowing that their money transfers are being handled with the greatest speed and security.
“This association carries an even deeper significance, as Western Union and Banamex both share a strong commitment to the community,” Fote added. “Beyond providing the best in financial services, our companies support social projects that help our customers and their families in Mexico.”
In a separate release, Western Union’s sister company, Orlandi Valuta, announced a similar agreement to facilitate money transfers with Banamex and CCB.
Grupo Financiero Banamex-Accival is Mexico’s leading financial group. Following a universal banking strategy, the Group offers a variety of financial services to companies and individuals, which include commercial and investment banking, insurance, and fund management. Banamex, founded in 1884, is Mexico’s leading commercial bank in terms of equity. The Bank has an extensive distribution network of more than 1,300 branches and 3,000 ATM’s located throughout the country.
About California Commerce Bank
California Commerce Bank provides full banking services for companies and individuals that do business in Mexico and the United States. As part of Grupo Financiero Banamex-Accival, CCB is the U.S. banking arm of Banco Nacional de Mexico (Banamex), Mexico’s leading bank. As such, CCB is the gateway to and from Mexican financial markets. With over $2.1 billion in assets and advanced international information technology systems, CCB is a valued resource for customers with interests, which cross national boundaries. For more information, visit California Commerce Bank at [http://www.ccbusa.com].
About Western Union
Western Union Financial Services, Inc., a subsidiary of First Data Corporation (NYSE: FDC), is a worldwide leader in consumer money transfer services. The company provides rapid money transfer service through a global agent network. Consumers can quickly, safely and reliably transfer money at approximately 101,000 agent locations in more than 185 countries and territories using the Western Union and Orlandi Valuta money transfer networks. Famous for its pioneering telegraph service, the original Western Union dates back to 1851 and introduced electronic money transfer service in 1871. Western Union is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2001. For more information please visit [http://www.westernunion.com].
About First Data Corp.
Atlanta-based First Data Corp. (NYSE: FDC) powers the global economy. Serving nearly 2.5 million merchant locations, more than 1,400 card issuers and millions of consumers, First Data makes it easier, faster and more secure for people and businesses to buy goods and services, using virtually any form of payment: credit, debit, stored-value card or check at the point-of-sale, over the Internet or by money transfer. For more information, please visit the company’s Web site at [http://www.firstdata.com].
PA-based e-Vend.net this week unveiled a new service enabling consumers to purchase items from vending machines using a cellular phone linked to a credit card. While several advertisers and wireless companies have claimed to be in development of this technology, e-Vend’s new ‘1-800-CELLPAY’ service is the first to be delivered in the USA. Customers need only approach a vending machine, dial the posted telephone number and select the snack or beverage of their choice. The charge shows up on the customer’s cellular phone bill or on a credit card/debit card linked to the account. Kodak is gearing up to offer the new service for the 2002 Olympics whereby consumers will be able to purchase film and disposable cameras with their cellular phone. Maytag’s Dixie Narco division, an e-Vend investor, is also considering the technology under an OEM arrangement. In March USA Technologies and Marconi Online Systems signed a deal to bring together Marconi Online’s ‘Intelligent Vending’ service with USA Technologies’ ‘e-Port’ technology. Marconi and the primary European Coca-Cola bottler launched a pilot in February for ‘Dial-a-Coke’ with enables European consumers to pay for their drink using a GSM cellular phone. A similar service was launched this year in Australia according to RAM Research Group. (CF Library 2/8/01;3/15/01;4/24/01)
MasterCard is setting up a Middle East and Africa unit in Dubai by October according to yesterday’s issue of The RAM Report. Canadian Tire says its 1Q/01 gross operating revenue increase primarily due to the portfolio conversions of Canadian Tire retail cards to the ‘Options MasterCard’. RAM also reported the completion of the sale of Citibank’s merchant VISA portfolio to Scotiabank following its acquisition last year of Canada Trust’s MasterCard credit portfolio.([www.ramresearch.com])