European banks work on guidelines for NFC payments

The final version of its guidelines will be published in October

The European Payments Council (EPC), which represents the European banking industry, has released a draft version of guidelines it hopes will give the use of NFC (Near Field Communications) for payments a boost.

The Mobile Contactless SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) Card Payments Interoperability Implementation Guidelines document focuses solely on the use of NFC. The EPC wants the industry to provide feedback by June 17. The final version is expected to be published in October, according to a statement issued on Thursday.

The document details service models and processes involved in the provisioning and the lifecycle management of a payment application residing on a mobile phone. There are three main alternatives when rolling out NFC: using a phone with integrated support for the technology -- for example, Google and Samsung's Nexus S -- or putting NFC on either a SIM card or a micro SD card, according to the EPC.

The EPC's guidelines also outline security requirements for each component, as well as transaction flows, cardholder verification methods and risk management. It isn't a technical specification, but the EPC provides an overview of standards and specifications defined by other standard and industry bodies. The EPC has been working already with mobile telecom interest group GSM Association on payments.

The document ends by pointing to some areas where there is a need for more standards development is needed, if NFC is to take off on a grand scale. For example, the management of secure micro SD cards suffers from a lack of standardization, the EPC wrote.

Having these kinds of guidelines will help mobile payments take off because it will give the industry a common place to start, instead of everyone coming up with their own way of how to make it work, said Anne Sundqvist, senior advisor at the Swedish Bankers' Association. However, NFC still isn't going to flourish overnight, partly because payment terminals have to be upgraded, Sundqvist said.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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