Zapp app to enable millions more shoppers to pay by smartphone

System launching in autumn available to 18 million UK current account holders from five banks in new shift from card payments

Millions of consumers will be able to use a smartphone app to pay for purchases this year in the latest shift away from cash and card payments.

Known as Zapp, the app is due to launch in the autumn and will be available to 18 million UK current account holders with HSBC, First Direct, Nationwide, Santander and Metro Bank.

The mobile payment system will only work for online purchases initially, but Peter Keenan, chief executive of Zapp, said he expects it to be enabled for at least one in five store payments from late 2015, meaning that consumers can “leave their wallets at home”.

Zapp will be synchronised with existing online banking apps for smartphones and tablets. It will work by using a code sent to a customer’s smartphone when they touch the ‘Pay by Zapp’ button on a self-checkout touchscreen or tell the cashier at a till that they wish to pay this way. Alternatively, customers will be able to scan a code into the handset from a paper bill or the screen on a modern card machine.

The code will contain all the information needed to complete the transaction, including the price, and the retailer’s details and information about the goods being bought, which will appear on your mobile screen. Once a customer has opened the mobile banking app on their phone the transaction can be completed, with testing by Zapp suggesting the whole process will take about 12 seconds.

If a customer is shopping online from a tablet, going to the checkout will launch the app to pay, while if they are using a PC then websites can send a notification to the customer’s phone which will launch Zapp.

Keenan claims Zapp is more secure than current card payments as it does not require users to share their card numbers with third parties. “It is engineered so that it doesn’t have to share any information with the retailer,” he said. Banks also claim the technology will be safer, as the unique code for that purchase will expire after three minutes.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at, said: “The days of cash and debit cards could be numbered. The ease of managing everything – your diary to online payments – from your smartphone with mobile payment technology, could see the wallet become a thing of the past.

“For those worried about the security issues of paying from your mobile, Zapp’s use of ‘digital tokens’ – which mean consumers don’t need to reveal any of their details to merchants – as well as offering the same level of protection as debit cards, should give many consumers the peace of mind they need to embrace this technology and revolutionise how they shop and manage their money.”

Zapp was developed by Vocalink, the group that runs the UK’s payments infrastructure and is owned by a consortium of 18 banks and building societies.

Barclays offers its own service, Pingit, and there are similar mobile systems from PayPal, Orange and Moneto. However, Telefonica shut down its O2 Wallet service last week, and said it is looking at “better ways” for consumers to make payments.

The Centre for Economic and Business Research said that it estimates 20 million people will use their mobiles to pay for goods and services by the end of the decade. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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