M-Commerce and GDPR

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It will be some time before we truly know how the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will affect commerce over the Internet via laptops, tablets or mobile devices. Yet, as has been widely reported, the new law has been confusing in terms of who or what is actually bound by it and what particular steps need to be taken to make sure a digital entity is fully-compliant. This added level of uncertainty, usually, is never good for business.

In short, GDPR applies to any way data is stored or processed. All databases associated with a particular business entity; marketing, sales, HR, accounting, fall under the new regulation. Data subjects (customers/partners/employees/users) must be asked in language that is “concise, transparent, and intelligible” whether or not they would like to opt into marketing activities and data-sharing. GDPR removes the option of blanketed or bundled consent, consent by default or consent as a condition of sale, service or general terms and conditions. It also means no more pre-filled checkboxes or consent “below the fold.” 

While this has been standard operating procedures from many marketers, a more particular new concern for marketers and consumers in regard to GDPR is the “use of data for 3rd parties” checkbox, of which now must list the third parties that may have access to their data specifically. All of the above will impact the marketing industry, especially when it comes to personalization, profiling and any marketing activities that involve big data processing. 

Another major GDPR change is the right “to be forgotten.” Individuals must be told they have the ability to be able to easily withdraw their consent for data processing if there is there is “no overriding legitimate interest” for a business to hold onto it. The right “to be forgotten” also means the individual has the right to have its data “erased” when processing is no longer necessary in relation to the purpose for which it was originally collected. This is an area of GDPR, ripe for confusion because having a record of a transaction would debatably count as a paramount legitimate interest for a business to hang on to an individual’s data, for legal purpose or otherwise. On the flip side, marketers would loathe having to delete the data of individuals with accounts but no transaction history. The onus, of course, will be on the retailers to figure it all out and have a proper erasure process in place. 

Right now, it doesn’t appear consumers want to be forgotten, they do however want to be better-protected. It seems in no uncertain terms they would prefer to conveniently make purchases with their mobile devices. However, because of the GDPR hoopla (e-mails, announcements, media coverage), consumers may also be confused by what type of information is required of them in order to complete a transaction, where it is safe to disclose this information and how, and this is also true in areas where GDPR may not apply. Users may not feel as comfortable any more being asked to enter personal billing information, it seems that recent privacy concerns have heightened everyone’s privacy alert levels.   

However, the rise in ownership and usage of mobile devices has led to the introduction of convenient services, such as mobile payment solutions that allow users to make payment transactions via their smartphones. In the space of just a few years, mobile payments have grown from a niche service for tech-savvy consumers to mainstream use. Business Insider's BI Intelligence finds that mobile payment volume will reach $75 billion this year in the U.S. alone. That figure should swell to $503 billion by 2020 thanks to advancements in mobile payments technology, led by the major mobile carriers. 

Imagine when mobile users in the US catch-up to those in other countries. Recode reports 80- percent of Americans have never used a contactless payment system, compared to approximately 80% of Australians and Brits who have. In Europe, the British are leading adoption of mobile payment, with 74% of that population using a mobile device to make payments and manage their finances. On the whole, Mobile Payments World said mobile payment use across Europe significantly increased last year, jumping 200% from 2015 (18%) to 2016 (54%). According to VISA, by 2020, m-Payment technology will be a standard mode of payment. They say consumers will be more comfortable using their mobile devices in paying at physical stores and virtual shops and could potentially leave their wallets at home. Could there ever be a consumer backlash against GDPR if it inhibits people from buying what they want when they want it? 

The good news is that there are some financial arrangements coming out of Europe other than GDPR. The mobile telecommunications industry is providing a simple solution for consumers. It is in the form of direct (mobile) carrier billing methods for the payment of subscription services. As such, telecom users are not required to fill out or disclose any personal billing information, which makes it a safer environment and thus increases the user interest in this type of payment method. 

In what is a growing trend, carriers are integrating with payment aggregation solution providers, allowing subscribers to buy content services with just one or two clicks. With this type of payment form, users no longer need to fill out online forms or provide credit information. All subscription requests are submitted directly to the carrier’s billing system, leveraging the pre-populated subscriber data there. This is a safer, faster, and easier process overall, resulting in more subscriber conversions and improved loyalty and it comes at a time when content is starting to drive revenues for mobile carriers, especially across Europe and Asia. 

Direct carrier billing can forge successful win-win partnerships for the digital industry. Telecoms, of course, are required to handle the GDPR responsibilities but when it comes to payment, the burden is taken off the user. For things such as transportation, parking, or engaging with digital media, this advanced technology is making it even more convenient for telecom subscribers to make mobile payments and making it far easier and more efficient for telecoms to manage, oversee and benefit from this process.  

Roman Taranov, Co-Founder and CEO of RGK Mobile 

Image Credit: Jonas Leupe / Unsplash