UK's EE extends contactless mobile payments to London buses

EE said customers are now able to use their mobile phones to pay for travel on London buses for the first time if they have handsets enabled with the 'Cash on Tap' service.

Pippa Dunn, EE chief consumer marketing officer

Pippa Dunn, EE chief consumer marketing officer

The UK-based mobile operator, which is 50:50-owned by Orange Group and Deutsche Telekom, said the new service will do away with Oyster cards--the contactless ticket system used across London's entire transport network--and contactless debit cards for regular bus travellers. It will also remove the need to queue up at underground stations to top up contactless cards.

EE stressed that bus journeys will still cost the same as before, with no added charges for Cash on Tap.

"More people use London's buses than all the other bus services across the country combined, so the need for speedy and simple payment solutions is paramount," said Pippa Dunn, chief consumer marketing officer at EE.

The bus service is the first stage of a wider plan to offer Cash on Tap across London's transport network: Cash on Tap payments will also be accepted when Transport for London's (TfL's) contactless payment system goes live on the London Underground, DLR, and Overground network from Sept. 16.

The Cash on Tap service was first launched in partnership with MasterCard last year, and EE said it is due to be compatible with over 500,000 customers' handsets by the end of 2014. The Cash on Tap application is available free via the Google Play store and is compatible with a range of Android devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One and Sony Xperia Z2.

EE customers can already use their phone to pay in food outlets including McDonald's, Caffè Nero, Pret A Manger, and Greggs at 300,000 locations across the country.

As well as Cash on Tap, Orange Quick Tap is a further service still supported by EE for contactless mobile payments using near-field communications (NFC) technology. As yet, it's unclear if both services will continue to be run in future. Unlike Cash on Tap, Quick Tap was launched with Barclaycard.

EE is also involved in the UK mobile payments venture Weve along with Vodafone UK and O2 UK. Weve is a more far-reaching endeavour that ultimately aims to accelerate the development of the UK's "most comprehensive contactless mobile payments system" in conjunction with MasterCard.

Nevertheless, the various service launches to date reflect the fragmented nature of the contactless mobile payments market. Former Weve CEO David Sear, who quit the company in June, previously warned that mobile payments "are a bit of a mess", and said that unless the mobile payments industry recognises that it has to partner fully with banks and retailers, "we'll be waiting for another 10 years for adoption of mobile payments at scale".

For more:
- see this EE release

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