Jordan Telecom buys into e-payment

Jordan Telecom is looking to kickstart development of e-commerce in the Kingdom with the launch of an e-payment platform linking merchants and participating banks.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  September 14, 2003

Jordan Telecom is looking to kickstart development of e-commerce in the Kingdom with the launch of an e-payment platform linking merchants and participating banks.

The system, developed in-house by the telco’s online content subsidiary, e-dimension, will initially be used to allow Jordan Telecom’s subscribers to pay bills via the internet.

It is also being offered as a method for the Jordanian government, utility companies and e-commerce companies to offer payment services over the web.

“By implementing the internet bill payment system ourselves we are not only giving customers great benefits but are demonstrating what can be done to improve services by using the internet,” says Laurent Mialet, Jordan Telecom’s CEO.

“We are particularly proud that Jordanian developed software is at the heart of these solutions. The ICT community now has the green light to develop their own versions of great internet-based companies, such as Amazon, eBay and Expedia, with nothing to stand in their way,” he adds.

Jordan Telecom is aiming to cut costs by converting 40,000 lines to the online payment system by the end of 2003, and is studying whether pre-paid cards can be provided as a substitute payment method to people without credit or debit cards.

The telco is also looking to expand the system’s reach and encourage more local merchants to accept cheques by allowing them to be verified by retailers online.

"We’re working on e-cheques. You could submit a cheque, which has a bar code on it with the issuing bank and serial number. [Merchants] can scan the cheque and immediately verify if that customer is valid and whether he has the money,” says Tamouh Khauli, CEO of e-dimension.

“There is still a possibility of fraud because someone could sign with a different [style and claim] that it is not [their] signature, but [users] are responsible for reporting a lost cheque. It will also entice merchants to accept cheques and encourage e-commerce,” he adds.

A system allowing cash transfers between different banks is also in development. “We are working on platforms for interconnecting banks, for transferring money between accounts. Our service currently allows you to transfer money from one account to another in the same bank. [However], to go across banks, you need to go across a centralised system and we are working on that,” Khauli adds.

According to e-dimension, the measures adopted to secure the transactions include high-level encryption, a secure sockets layer (SSL) protocol security layer, firewalls, and secure leased lines connecting the platform to partner banks.

The platform also uses the ‘3D-Secure’ system adopted by credit card manufacturers to form the basis for global interoperability of authenticated e-payments, which splits the stakeholders in the transaction process into three separate security domains.

“The payment gateway has a mechanism to detect fraud and encrypts information between the banks and merchants through a virtual private network (VPN) system built to international standards for credit and debit card systems. Customers can also be assured that they are protected by a very comprehensive electronic transaction law,” Khauli adds.

e-dimension is also preparing a marketing push to persuade end-users to buy into the service and persuade them that it is safe. “We’re trying to tell people that if you don’t buy it, try it,” says Khauli.

To help boost initial uptake, the developer is offering an ‘e-dimension’ credit card to Jordan Telecom’s top 100,000 customers, in partnership with Jordan National Bank. Jordan Telecom is also installing PC kiosks in its customer service centres nationwide.

“If you look at the penetration rate of the internet [in Jordan], it is low, but access to the internet is quite good. [The system] can be used through work, in schools, and internet cafes. You can go to the customer care centre and access the system from kiosks. This is the right time to launch it. You can create the need for convenience and people are ready to pay for the extra convenience,” he contends.

Khauli also argues that the platform is being targeted a global market, rather than just Jordan. “You can be a Jordanian merchant and most of your clients can be in the United States, buying olives or oil. We have the whole world as our market. We’re not just sticking to the local area,” he adds.

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