A joint venture between British mobile operators Vodafone, O2 and Everything Everywhere to allow users to make mobile-based payments and purchases is to received EU approval.
According to Reuters, the approval is set to get finalized as soon as this week. The new partnership aims to give the consortium of companies an opportunity to build mobile wallet technology that would allow consumers to buy goods using their smartphone. The mobile wallet scheme, called Project Oscar, allows users to use their mobile for transactions instead of cash or cards. It can also be used by retailers, banks and advertisers.
The European Commission, which has been examining the plan since March, is expected to give approval this week, ahead of a September 19 deadline. Vodafone, Telefonica’s 02 and Everything Everywhere, operated as a joint venture between by France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom, aim to compete with similar mobile payment services from Google, Apple and Facebook.
EU officials launched an investigation into the mobile wallet partnership last April. At the time concerns were raised over the joint ventures effect on competition in the mobile wallet arena. Critics such as Hutchison Whampoa’s Three, the smallest telecoms provider in the UK, said the proposed mobile wallet would give the three partners a monopoly in mobile “push” advertising and mobile payments. However, following the investigation, an unnamed source close to the investigation said that the plans were to receive ‘unconditional clearance’.
There have been no further comments from the Commission but expect to hear more on Project Oscar later in the year.
Update 05.09.12 – What follows is a statement issued by the Joint Venture members
Everything Everywhere, Telefonica UK (O2) and Vodafone UK welcome today’s news from the European Commission that their mobile commerce joint venture (“JV”) has received unconditional clearance.
At the heart of the JV is a desire to bring to the UK an easy and effective solution for businesses to create and for consumers to enjoy mobile marketing and wallet services. With EC clearance received, the job of getting the JV up and running as quickly as possible can begin, starting with the hiring of the necessary people and the creation of the new company.
The mobile marketing platform is expected to be the first part of the business that is brought to market. The JV has the potential to transform the mobile marketing landscape in the UK. It will remove a number of the barriers that currently inhibit growth and create a single channel with access to millions of UK consumers at launch. It will provide a single contact point for media agencies, retailers and brands, enabling them to create campaigns that will reach millions of opted-in mobile users. This will apply across the majority of handsets, operating systems and mobile operators. For consumers, this means they will be able to receive the discounts and offers that they want to receive from the brands that are relevant to them.
In mobile payments, the JV will benefit businesses and consumers by accelerating the deployment of mobile wallets and associated services in a secure way. Through the solution offered by the JV, businesses will be able to connect once in order to offer a wide variety of mobile wallet services – including payment and loyalty cards – to millions of consumers on the majority of handsets, operating systems and mobile operators. It will give consumers a simple and secure shopping experience, allowing them to purchase goods and services using their handsets in physical locations such as shops, using contactless technology, as well as online.
The shareholders remain committed to making the JV services open to all, including all operators and MVNOs, 3rd party publishers, banks, advertising agencies, retailers and any company that wants to engage in this space. The partners in the JV believe it has an important role to play in helping to keep the UK at the forefront of digital innovation, creating jobs, promoting innovation and stimulating competition.