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In MNO we trust

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DCB is finding use everywhere, but it is the MNO’s name on the bill and they want more consumer trust built before they can truly push it. Paul Skeldon reports from a roundtable held in the UK on the subject – and what the plan is

With more consumers than ever looking for easy ways to pay for digital content and interaction, direct carrier billing (DCB) has rocketed up the payments agenda. But, while consumers are keen, MNOs are warning that more needs to be done to make the service something shoppers can trust – not least as it is the MNOs’ name on the bill.

As part of the recent Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) payments event, MCP Insight chaired an interesting online roundtable on‘How the mobile industry can build trust with consumers’, joining MCP were leading MNOs, including Three, Ooredoo, EE, Etisalat, Telenor, T-Mobile, Orange et al.

According to the discussion, priority number one for these companies is protecting their massive brands and maintaining trust of their customers. So, increasing revenues from mobile payments through PSMS or carrier billing by opening up to a growing number of merchants pushing services can cause issues, especially when consumers often see their primary contract with their mobile operator (platform enabler) rather than with the service brand (merchant) they purchased goods from.

If there is an issue, the complaints inevitably flow to the mobile operator, or regulator, before the merchant. So, it was interesting to debate the approach being taken by MNOs in how to build trust in this environment.

So what did the panel of experts conclude? There was general consensus that complaints tend to be based on trust barriers. Not being aware of opting in to a service always tends to be the number one complaint driver and this is generally a result of misleading advertising, awareness of key terms, fraud or consumer remorse.

In an attempt to control these complaints, mobile operators across the globe have implemented standards or conditions with a varying degree of success.

Joined up intelligence and action

The panel concluded that it is wholly in the interests of mobile operators to act – preferably in a cohesive and unified way – to protect both their brand, their revenue stream and their consumers.

They also need to limit advertising channels to mainstream players like Google and Facebook is not the answer, as that only plays into the whole monolithic paradigm we all know about. The majority of advertisers need channel choice to compete.

There is also a burning need for the mandating of certain consumer payment flows. USSD/captcha/OTP is not targeted enough to deal with the complaint drivers and can lessen core mobile billing USPs of a simple and frictionless check out experience.

Obviously, the industry doesn’t want that and neither do consumers, as they are getting used to the one click flow the major brands like Amazon provide. However, in markets like the UK, MSISDN entry and PIN for subscription services (to add friction to the consumer decision making process) is mandated and some international mobile operators maintain an OTP flow to limit complaints.

It was agreed that OTP is not a barrier to fraud and that by implementing anti-fraud fraud systems and monitoring of advertising and services, complaints can be limited in other ways.

Broadening DCB and its security

Restricting PSMS and DCB payments to big brands only forces smaller advertisers down the credit card route – which very much limits their market, especially in developing ‘unbanked’ territories, the panel said. And this is something that needs to change. DCB needs to be offered more broadly.

Similarly, payment platform security and implementation of anti-fraud systems need to be adopted, through a combination of mandates and providers adopting best practice. More MNO investment is needed here as progress has been slow.

The panel did suggest that the UK telemedia and MNO industry is starting to address the fraud topic better through trade associations – such as MEF and AIMM – to understand the threat of mobile fraud and educate Industry about steps to counter fraud. They also act as important spokes bodies to media over such sensitive issues.

Separation of responsibility across the value chain is helping define the role mobile operators, aggregators and service providers must take to improve the consumer experience. However, this only works well when the mobile operator gets directly involved in ensuring Code of Practice rules are adhered to and due diligence of providers and services is continuously carried out – so clear checks and balances are needed.

Monitoring of ads

Monitoring advertising through to check out experience is the only way to ensure consumers are not misled and receive the product they expect. Several operators use specialist companies like MCP to monitor advertising and enforce standards.

Monitoring of ad issues and fraud is most effective through a specialist 3rd party with relevant technology to scale, including monitoring of all digital ad channels. In-house monitoring is too slow to keep up with rogues determined to cause issues.

There needs to be clear separation of the advertising campaign and the payment pages, to ensure the consumer focuses on key terms of purchase, the panellist concluded.

The payment page needs to be controlled only by the carrier, a trusted payment intermediary – or an independent 3rd party with both anti-fraud detection and payment ‘verification’ (proof of consent) in place.

Independent witness (verification) of the terms and consumer consent to be charged is key and access to such transaction data (time stamps/IP/handset etc.) and screenshots of what the consumer saw has massive benefit in helping customers and limiting the potential for consumer fraud.

There is also a need to improve Content Standards. Don’t sign off on any service. Before a service is launched, conduct thorough ‘pre-launch’ due diligence and end-to-end service testing – to ensure clear terms, product value/price, customer care process…

And finally, MNOs agreed that improving the customer care process between the mobile operator and merchant to respond at speed to enquiries and with clear lines of recourse, reduces the consumer going round in circles and cementing their view that they may have been scammed.

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