Liberty, accessibility and security: A new French ideal

Suzanna Kerridge, Paris correspondent

Suzanna Kerridge, Paris correspondent

The French government has invested FF5m (£459,000) in a credit card reader which is being touted as the worldwide answer to ecommerce fraud. Speaking at the launch of the Cyber-COMM Meerkat system, Christian Pierret, secretary of state and industry, welcomed the introduction of the FF400 (£37) smart card device which attaches to a PC in order authenticate credit card details through the use of a pin number. He said: "The smart card industry in Europe is very strong and we must develop a harmonious relationship with other countries to develop a secure transaction process. We need innovation and permanent research from all financial institutions and governments." France will use its EU presidency, due to start in July, to promote the reader. Pierret added: "Liberty, accessibility and security will be our three main missions for promoting the Internet. "We hope to bring in changes to all these when we take over the presidency. I want to create an information society for all." Hérve Sitruk, director general of Cyber-COMM, said the organisation would work with other European governments and banks to promote the use of the system. He claimed discussions had already been held with British banks to discuss the possible introduction of the Meerkat device. But Sitruk refused to name the banks involved. Earlier in the day, Marylise Lebranchu, French small business minister, admitted that many SMEs were still wary of conducting business over the Web. She said: "There is still a problem with confidence. Many SMEs are worried about cost and security. We need to develop the smart cards in France to encourage confidence and this can be done with the Meerkat system as it limits risk and stops fraud."