French Twitter users to be offered Twitter payment service

Tweeting money will be free of charge, the French bank offering the service said

French Twitter users will be able to send money to one another with a tweet from later this week -- but the payment service isn't run by Twitter.

S-Money, a subsidiary of France's second largest banking group, BPCE, plans to extend its existing mobile payment service to French Twitter users with a payment card, regardless of who they bank with.

The service will be available this week, a BPCE spokesman said Monday, though he refused to discuss details ahead of a news conference scheduled on Tuesday.

However, in a statement about the service published early September, Jean-Yves Forel, CEO of Groupe BPCE said that this S-Money initiative can open up a whole new range of payment possibilities on social networks.

However, a Twitter spokeswoman was quick to emphasize on Monday that this is not an official partnership between Twitter and the banking group. There are currently no plans to launch the service in other countries, as at this time it's solely a French initiative, she added.

As to how the service would work exactly, details are still scarce. French Twitter users will be able to send money with a simple Tweet and free of charge, without having to enter the beneficiary's bank details, S-Money said on its site.

S-Money already offers electronic wallet apps for Android and iOS devices. The apps allow users who have linked their bank accounts to the service to send money for free to friends and family who also signed up for the S-Money service.

With that service, users' personal banking information is stored on a secure server and never on a phone. All transactions are encrypted and require the entry of a PIN. If a phone is stolen or lost, accounts can be blocked with a phone call.

S-Money's Twitter service will be launched at a time banks are struggling to keep up with technology companies who increasingly tap into the online payments market.

Twitter itself started testing a "buy' button for users in the U.S., offering them a way to buy products directly form their timelines. After tapping the button, users will get additional product details and be prompted to enter shipping and payment information. Once that's entered and confirmed, order information is sent to the merchant for delivery.

Meanwhile, Facebook is also testing a service which lets U.S. users buy retail items directly from their feeds or from a company page. The social network is also reportedly gearing up to enable mobile payments within its Messenger app.

Whether the services will take off remains to be seen. One hurdle might be the reluctance of users to share their financial details with Facebook or Twitter out of privacy concerns. As people are already used to sharing their payment details with banks, the banking sector could have advantage as a social media payments provider.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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