01 October 2014

MPowa launches UK's Square

23 January 2012  |  18909 views  |  11 iphone apps on screen

UK e-commerce outfit Powa has become the latest firm to launch a plastic dongle and mobile app that turns smartphones into payment card readers.

Although similar systems have been launched by Square, Verifone and Intuit in the US, and iZettle in Sweden, mPowa is the first of its type in the UK, claims the firm.

The free plug-in reader and app will be available next month, letting users accept credit and debit card payments through their iPhones, iPads, BlackBerrys and Android devices, with mPowa taking 0.25% per transaction.

Credit and debit card payments with your smartphone, iPhone, iPad, Android - mPowa from mPowa on Vimeo.

The system conforms to level 1 PCI compliance, putting it at the same level as a bank site, says the vendor. Meanwhile, the precise location of each transaction is recorded by the app, "making life near-impossible for fraudsters".

The technology is aimed at small businesses, says mPowa: "Where once a butcher or farmers' market salesman was tied to one location, using mPowa allows them to take their products directly to their customers without having to rely solely on cash payments."

Several corporates have expressed interest in the technology but mPowa tells Finextra that Barclays has not - as reported by the Telegraph - signed up to give the devices to its small business customers.

The mobile phone card reader business is proving lucrative in the US, where Square, set up by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, had shipped over 800,000 readers by November and reached a valuation of a billion dollars, with Visa and Richard Branson among its investors.

The concept is now beginning to move to other countries, with Intuit launching its GoPayment system in Canada and iZettle hitting the app store in Sweden with a wider European roll out on the horizon.

Comments: (11)

David Griffiths - gryffle - Hertford | 23 January, 2012, 12:26

Got to be joking ... !

Craig Lawrance - Xypro Security Solutions - Europe | 23 January, 2012, 13:03

This looks like a Magstripe reader - not for chip n pin countries, unless they're designed to attract skimmed cards... 

Matt White - Finextra - London | 23 January, 2012, 13:39

This is what the company tells us on the mag-stripe/chip and PIN issue:

"It does require a swipe - it's not something the manufacturer considers a problem given the current prevalence for UK cards with dual functionality on that front."

An interesting approach that contrasts with that of Sweden-based iZettle, which uses the chip, not mag-stripe.

David Griffiths - gryffle - Hertford | 23 January, 2012, 14:48

I think you will find that ATMs won't open the card gate unless there is a coded magstripe present.  That's one of the reasons why the card are issued with the "dual functionality".  

Oh! And the other reason is the fact that they need the magstripe to allow them to be used in the USA.  

James Hall - Thyron Systems - Watford | 24 January, 2012, 11:21 A leading clue to the success of this venture will be that the Visa logo & others have been removed from the MPowa website, leading me to believe the schemes might not be too agreeable for deployment as yet. ...I did enjoy the article posted recently in The Telegraph though!
A Finextra member | 24 January, 2012, 11:24

Cardholder Present transactions in the UK are mandated to be Chip and PIN verified, and since this device is swipe only (like Square in the US) it would not reach the minimum requirements for such payments.

I doubt that any UK acquiring banks would issue merchant accounts for use with this device.  It wouldn't be supported by Visa or Mastercard, and is against the recommendations of the Payments Council.

I fail to see how this has any legs at all.  It strikes me nothing more than another media stunt by Mr Wagner.


Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune | 25 January, 2012, 09:55

"...with mPowa taking 0.25% per transaction." Assuming this figure is not a typo - with the likes of Square charging 11X more at 2.75% - mPowa is a much cheaper option for merchants wishing to accept card payments. 

A Finextra member | 25 January, 2012, 10:19

The 0.25% is the MPowa cut... there would still be merchant charges on top of that from whichever acquiring bank decided to back it.  Square charges are all in.

Matt White - Finextra - London | 25 January, 2012, 10:24

Yes, mPowa's cut is 0.25% (with a minimum of 25p).

Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune | 25 January, 2012, 12:05

@MatP and @MattW:

Thank you for clarifying. This sheds more light into the exact nature of MPowa's offering. 

Plastic dongle based card readers for mobile phones have been around before Square. Their suppliers left it to the merchant to sign up directly for a merchant account with any acquirer bank. Square rightly recognized this to be a major pain area - to which I can attest from my personal experience. It disrupted the status quo by signing up for a merchant account in its own name and provided individual merchants with a sort of "sub-merchant-account" whereby the merchant does not have to sign up for a merchant account in its own name but can still accept card payments via Square's merchant account. And do this for a single uniform fee of 2.75% regardless of the acquiring bank, merchandise category, etc. 

Exclusion of merchant fees is a strong indication that MPowa is just another dongle provider and not a Square-equivalent at all. 

Keith Appleyard - available for hire - Bromley | 26 January, 2012, 11:16

Mat Peck (Sage Pay) said "Cardholder Present transactions in the UK are mandated to be Chip and PIN verified" - not so - I elected not to go for Chip & PIN, and instead remain with CHIP & Signature.

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