EU gives Project Oscar green light

Everything Everywhere has issued a statement confirming that Project Oscar, the e-wallet joint venture between itself, Vodafone and O2, has receieved unconditional clearance by the EC, confirming a report by news agency Reuters.

Project Oscar, which was unveiled in June last year, will allow UK consumers to pay for goods with the swipe of an NFC-enabled smartphone, which would then see funds deducted from a pre-paid account.

Vodafone, O2 and Everything Everywhere, which operates the Orange and T-Mobile networks, submitted the plans to launch joint venture to the EC in March.

In April the EC launched an investigation into the risk that Project Oscar may limit competition in the mobile payments space. “The commission is in favour of any initiative that will develop the promising mobile commerce sector in Europe and bring new and innovative payment and interactive advertising experience to consumers,” said Joaquín Almunia, EU commission vice president in charge of competition policy, said at the time. “At the same time, we need to make sure that competing services can keep emerging on this market, so that incentives to innovate remain and customers get the best mobile commerce services at the best cost.”

Announcing Project Oscar last year, Everything Everywhere CEO Tom Alexander said it woud benefit whole of the UK. “The benefits will be felt across the whole country, allowing people to manage their money and make payments using their handsets, helping advertisers reach their customers on the move, and helping banks provide their clients with an easy and convenient way of making payments,” he said.

Project Oscar is likely to be a dominating presence in the mobile commerce ecosystem. It remains to be seen how it will affect each mobile telecommunications company’s existing partnerships with payment process.

In February, Vodafone partnered with Visa to develop e-wallet technology based entirely on services from Visa, including its PayWave NFC system. The companies described the partnership as the “largest” of its kind, as it would cover all 30 countries in which Vodafone operates.

Last month, Everything Everywhere signed a five-year with Mastercard to introduce of mobile payment services, including a digital wallet scheme that would allow customers to make contactless payments at any of the 100,000 retail chains that accept them using NFC-enabled smartphones.

There are signs that retailers, on whose premises much of this technology will be put into action, wish to have a greater say in its development. Last month, a number of retailers in the US, including WalMart, Target and 7-Eleven recently formed a consortium to develop their own mobile payment platform, while coffee shop chain Starbucks acquired a stake in Square, a mobile payments start-up started by the co-founder of Twitter.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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