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Zoompass Takes Mobile Payments to the (Canadian) Masses

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zoompasslogoHere in the U.S., getting a bunch of mobile carriers together to agree on anything is a bit like herding cats. North of the border, however, Canada’s three carriers — Bell Canada, Rogers and TELUS — have joined forces to create Zoompass, a top-to-bottom, designed-for-mobile, money transfer and payments service that launched today.

The three each hold not only a one-third stake in Zoompass, but a one-third share (PDF) of the Canadian cell market. Given the ubiquity of cell phones in Canada, the carriers are hoping their customers will begin using Zoompass for everyday financial transactions, not just bill-paying but things like giving kids their allowance or collecting money from co-workers to buy the boss a birthday gift. Since for any payments system, critical mass is necessary for truly widespread adoption, Zoompass is ideally positioned for success — and could subsequently look to move into other markets, perhaps even the United States.

“It’s the beginning of something that’s going to revolutionize our industry,” said Nadir Mohamed, CEO of Rogers Communications, one of the partners in Zoompass, in a keynote delivered to the Canadian Telecom Summit today.

Zoompass is available on most major phones as a native application, and its mobile web site can be easily accessed by any phone with a WAP browser. iPhone (s aapl) and Blackberry (s rimm) Storm apps are due out soon as well. The service also offers a debit Mastercard (s ma) with a tap-and-go PayPass RFID card installed, and phones equipped with the tech are on the way; it can also be used to take cash out of an ATM. The company is partnered with a chartered bank, with all cash in Zoompass accounts held safely in escrow. Fees are modest, only 50 Canadian cents to send cash or withdraw money to a bank account, with no limit on how much can be transferred. Receiving money or paying for merchandise with the debit Mastercard is free.

Getting AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile to agree on anything of this magnitude (especially when money is involved) would be a much taller order, given the relative size of the U.S. market. But other countries, particularly South Korea and Japan, have already adopted money transfer via cell phone technologies, much to the envy of traveling gadget geeks. And if Zoompass is a hit north of the border — and it certainly seems to have that potential — it could easily make its way down here. The U.S. carriers may want to start talking now.

13 Responses to “Zoompass Takes Mobile Payments to the (Canadian) Masses”

  1. Melanie

    A year after this article was published. I wonder what you think now. I have Zoompass and I like it. I heard about it because a friend bought a cell phone with the ap on it. I looked into it and downloaded the ap for my iPhone. I also have the Zoompass Mastercard card. I was sceptical at first but I found out it’s the most economical way to pay for merchandise online. I buy my iTunes aps with it and it doesn’t cost me a penny in charges. Transferring money from my bank account is as simple as paying a bill and the money is deposited very quickly, as fast as 1 business day depending on what time you make the transfer. I now have a prepaid Mastercard and I don’t have to pay a user fee like Vanilla or the other prepaid cards charge. Couldn’t be happier. I think it will go over big because it’s already installed on many cell phones and the information that comes with the phone packaging is promoting it. Also, because huge corporations are backing it, there is perceived little risk to the consumer.

  2. I wonder how quickly Ebay will ban this as a money-transfer system like they did for Google Payments. The cost is more than 50 cents really, you have to pay to withdraw your funds as well if you need it in cash. Maybe Paypal will re-launch its Debit Mastercard in Canada again to better compete, hopefully denominated in CAD$.

  3. Hubert

    I think they need a bit more publicity as the only news I heard is from the 680 news at the moment.

    Doesn’t paypal has something similar that you can send money to mobile numbers?

  4. Jerry Lundergaard

    The US is a little different, fierce competition among local, regional and national carriers. The Canadian market essentially has an oligopoly with the 3 carriers owning 95% of all subs. This is a classic case of a typical practice based on that type of market.

  5. Jesse Kopelman

    Doe’s AT&T still own a large share of Rogers? They inherited one from AT&T Wireless, but maybe they had to sell it off at some point . . . Anyway, if they do that would seem a natural in for Zoompass coming to the US. Given that the customer base of any of the US Big 4 is larger than the entire population of Canada, it would seem like a single carrier could go it alone here, rather than there needing to be a unified effort.