Pre-paid 'credit' card for the Web

Kids and teenagers can finally pay for stuff on the Net, with World Online's pre-paid 'scratch' cards

Internet service provider World Online has launched the first credit card for children that can be used to shop on the Web. The cards will operate on the popular pre-paid model that has stormed the mobile phone industry.

UK consumers will be able to buy the cards from their local corner shop in fixed face values of £5, £10 or £15. A PIN number under a scratch-off panel on the back will allow them to open an online account with World Online. The payment method will allow people who do not own a credit card to shop online, bypassing the problem of internet fraud associated with online credit card transactions.

The card was developed by EHPT, a joint venture by Ericsson and Hewlett-Packard. World Online intends to have the payment system up and running in the UK by Christmas.

World Online hopes to sign partnerships with gaming content providers at ECTS, and is also looking to target the music and film industry. It plans eventually to capitalise on gaming industry plans to charge for online content. The pre-paid card will also allow consumers to pay for internet access with World Online or any other service provider that signs up.

The cards are mainly aimed at teenagers, but will also be appropriate for adults who make casual use of the internet. Only 50 per cent of adults currently own a credit card, and cards are used for only 25 per cent of all transactions. This new system of payment will enable users to make micropayments online, as well as allowing them to monitor the amount of money that they are spending.

It is also good news for content providers, as subscribers get immediate access to World Online's 1.2 million users, and have the security of knowing that the money has been collected from the consumer upfront.

The service will not be rolled out in the rest of Europe until 2002.

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