Belgians to Test Pay-by-TEXT

Belgians to Test Pay-by-TEXT


Paying by SMS is about to get a 10-million-person test.

Starting in mid-May, Belgium will test a pay-by-text service that could revolutionize transaction systems. As long as both parties have mobiles and Belgian bank accounts, it’s possible for money to change hands electronically the easy way.

The nuts and bolts are this: The seller sends a payment request text message to the buyer, who uses a secret code to approve the purchase. A resulting text to both parties confirms the sale.

We wonder whether the details might make the plan unattractive: It will cost you 25 euro cents for each transaction—unless you’re the seller, in which case you’ll pay 49 euro cents. Then there’s the minimum payment, which is 6 euros. So much for buying a hot pretzel or crepe from a street vendor.

The country’s three major mobile phone networks—Base, Mobistar, and Proximus—are in on the deal, which means that it has lots of muscle. The plan also has a parent company in France that would probably like to expand the service to that country and beyond.