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EDITORIAL Carrier billing refunds – last piece of the puzzle?

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News this week that BillMobile has worked out how to refund carrier billing transactionsback to the consumer’s mobile bill is indeed a welcome step forward – and may well be the missing link in making it a mainstream service.

PSD2 has certainly opened markets and minds to carrier billing and everyone from carparks to theatres to transport to media companies are already or are about to leverage its convenience.

And the more people that use it, the more likely there are to be needs for refunds – not because the services are dodgy, but just because things occasionally go wrong. Having the ability to quickly and easily issue a refund removes another pain point from payments and slips carrier billing up there into the realms of something that people will start to use.

The biggest issue with doing anything – anything that you pay for at least – is actually paying. Uber’s genius wasn’t just to give the taxi market at kick up the ‘arris, was to bury the payment part of the process so it sort of feels free at the point of use at least. Making payments quick and easy is going to be key to selling content and more to everyone, from Gen Z upwards.

But what is more interesting about carrier billing is the way that it brings together mobile engagement and payments. While it doesn’t quite remove the need to actually click something and pay, it makes it pretty easy – and opens up a channel to engage.

Just imagine, you’ve driven across the Dartford Crossing. You can’t pay because they took all the toll booths away. You can’t easily pay online – you are driving. Instead of accidentally forgetting to pay, the good people at Highways Department could text you to remind you: they have your registration number and your mobile number from previous trips. You could then simply pay from the text message.

I guess they’d then lose out on all the extortionate fines they issue (200,000 in 2017, many ending up in enforcement as they don’t remind you pay; they leave that to the bailiffs), but a simple joined up approach to a modern payment tool and the engagement that can be delivery via the same channel could do wonders not only for drivers, but for anyone interacting with any business. Happy days.

Of course, government bodies aren’t the best example – staffed by all those people you were at school with who weren’t bright or stupid, just ‘meh’ and beset by old fashioned thinking and a punitive streak from management (not to mention the ministerial oversight from some posh boy who all the other posh boys hated) – they are antediluvian in their approach to things like this.

However, agile media companies, merchants and retailers should be all over it. Shoppers today want experiences and engagement. They want ease of use and simple ways to pay. They want to be told first about things that they like and want. And this all means mobile.

Combining this with payments is the natural next step to making consumption of all things digital easier at the point of use – and is just what the likes of media companies need to start rebooting how they make money. Ads are dead, subs are in. Closing the circle with easy refunds gives both brands and consumers the confidence to use the system. This is a great day for carrier billing.

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Editor and content creator for Telemedia – for 18 years and counting

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