CNP Session Room: The 2nd Mobile Wallet Renaissance and CNP Paul Tomasofsky, president of the Secure Remote Payment Council, moderated a lively discussion at a Wednesday morning panel discussing mobile wallets from a card-not-present perspective. One of the main topics was the balance between offering choice to consumers and keeping acceptance options simple for merchants.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury, represented on the panel by Program Manager Joe Edwards, has been working to mobilize government service payments to bring the fee collection experience to what consumers are used to leveraging in the private sector. “For us,” he explained, “it’s not about checkout abandonment—people have to pay the government—but it’s about offering choice to make our services as accessible to the public as possible.”

There are rumored to be 25 more mobile wallets coming out, according to Nathan Hodgen, mobile product manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, and who knows how many startups out there developing new ones now. “Some solution providers are better than others in trying to create this experience for users. I just want to pay—I don’t want to have to log in, or type in my card number. When that experience becomes easy for the user, that’s when someone is going to start winning. That’s when mobile wallet will go from hype to reality.”

Ian Jacobs, Payments Activity Lead with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) distinguished “friction and silos from fragmentation that means innovation and choice. We want to create smooth experiences and foster innovation by involving a lot of different companies and payment methods.” He also made a distinction between “the mobile wallet as a container of different payment methods vs. mobile wallet being the payment method itself. PayPal is both a container and a payment method. That doesn’t necessarily make things more complex for the merchant, because you still can decide which methods you want to support, and ultimately, the customer experience is different, but the merchant experience in terms of PCI scope and all of that is the same—it’s still just running a Visa, you’re just accepting the card number in a different way.”

Some of the merchants in the audience pointed out that though this is not difficult, it can nevertheless be problematic for them, because it forces them to accept payment methods that benefit their competition. For instance, Visa and MasterCard are forcing them to accept Amazon’s mobile wallet (because it uses Visa and MasterCard), yet they consider themselves in competition with Amazon.