AmeriDebt and DebtWorks Settle with the FTC

The FTC and former MD-based AmeriDebt have signed a settlement that returns $12.7 million to consumers nationwide. Andris Pukke and his companies, AmeriDebt and DebtWorks, also agreed to return an additional $7 million to consumers as a result of class-action settlements with the defendants and related credit counseling agencies. About 287,000 AmeriDebt consumers have been mailed redress checks. Consumers who qualified for redress, a total of about 460,000 consumers, obtained a DMP from one of 11 credit counseling agencies serviced by DebtWorks between January 31, 1998 and October 7, 2004.

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eBillme Raises $12MM in New Funding

DE-based alternative online payment platform eBillme has
raised $12 million in a recently completed round of financing.
The financing was led by the global venture capital
firm Canaan Partners, as well as existing investor Celtic House Venture
Partners, investors in software and Internet services companies. Maha
Ibrahim, General Partner at Canaan Partners, and Pierre-André Meunier,
P.Eng., Partner at Celtic House, will join eBillme’s Board of Directors.
eBillme transactions occur securely, bank to bank, with no personal or
financial information required or transmitted over the Internet. Because
shoppers pay directly from their online bank account, they don’t release
any financial information online.

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Pinnacle Offers PCI Compliance Education

The Pinnacle Corporation has launched a new PCI portal for petroleum
retailers offering PCI compliance education and information. It is
designed to help retailers navigate their way through the complex rules
surrounding PCI Compliance, providing a collective set of research
materials and tools that enable qualifying retailers to complete their
PCI self assessments online. Pinnacle has partnered with PCI security
experts Coalfire to provide a secure, on-line Self (SAQ) tool that
enables retailers to understand, organize and complete their annual
self-assessment activities. Through Coalfire’s innovative Navis platform
retailers can access “Rapid SAQ”, a self-paced intuitive program. “Rapid
SAQ” guides users through the assessment process in plain English and
accurately completes the required SAQ. The tool includes contextual help
and guidance to clarify and simplify the process. Adherence to the PCI
“digital dozen” requirements has become a top
priority for retailers. Failure to achieve PCI compliance by
pre-determined deadlines can result in significant retailer penalties as
high as $25,000 per month; fines for a compromise as much as $500,000
per incident.

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CLUB SOBEYS MASTERCARD

Citi Cards Canada has partnered with grocery retailer Sobeys to launch the “Club Sobeys” loyalty program and the companion “Club Sobeys
MasterCard”. The new cards are being introduced in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia provinces and will include the MasterCard “PayPass” contactless feature. Club Sobeys points are redeemable for rewards ranging from instant in-store savings at check-out, food-related rewards from the online catalogue or automatic conversion of points to “Aeroplan” miles. Customers can sign up for the Club Sobeys card in Sobeys stores beginning on September 17th in Western Canada and on September 19th in Ontario. MasterCard says the introduction of the “Club Sobeys MasterCard” as the preferred payment
card at Sobeys grocery stores in Ontario and Western Canada will be
supported by advertising and in-store signage.

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VeriFone’s New Secure PumpPAY Solution Takes-Off

VeriFone reports its PCI-approved fuel dispenser payment system has securely processed more than one million transactions during consumer field trials. “Secure PumpPAY” offers additional security features including a tightly sealed housing unit that shields all cables against skimmer installation. A polymer tactile keypad prevents keyboard overlay skimmers from being installed, and a privacy guard around the keypad shields the consumer’s PIN entry from surreptitious cameras.
The solution also provides petroleum retailers with a large color
display on which they can run bright, attention-getting promotions to
customers while they are filling up their tanks, increasing in-store
sales. “Secure PumpPAY” can be retrofitted to existing dispensers from Wayne, Gilbarco, Bennett and Tokheim.

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FDC and CUCC Extend Through September 2012

First Data and the Credit Union Card Center have inked a deal to provide credit and debit processing services to CUCC’s membership through September 2012. CUCC has been a customer of First Data for 13 years. The current contract for credit and debit card processing services expires in September 2009 and will renew for three years at that time. IN-based CUCC is a credit union-owned cooperative that provides credit unions the ability to offer affordable credit, debit and ATM card programs to their memberships. CUCC now serves more than 240 credit union card programs. Clients include credit unions in Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee and New York.

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e-Retailers Remain Optimistic Despite Bad Economy

An annual survey has found that the majority of online retailers
continue to be “cautiously optimistic” about how their businesses will
perform in 2008. About 35% of online retailers surveyed said they expect
their online business to perform better than expected in the next 12
months, while 33% anticipate their online business will perform the same
as expected. The 11th annual Shop.org online retail study, conducted by
Forrester Research, also found that 81% of online retailers reported
that their eCommerce business was profitable in 2007, and 75% were also
more profitable last year than in 2006. The Shop.org report notes that
online retailers are still challenged in creating cohesive customer
experiences among multiple sales channels. While many web teams continue
to operate in silos, apart from store and catalog teams, multichannel
retailers report that half of online customers also shop in the
company’s stores or through its catalogs, exemplifying why online
employees should have a vested interest in stores’ performance
and vice versa.

ONLINE SALES HISTORICAL
2004: $ 93 billion
2005: $114 billion
2006: $146 billion
2007: $175 billion
2008: $204 billion
Source: shop.org and carddata.com

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Heartland Payment and Union Bankshares Team

Heartland Payment Systems has partnered with VA-based Union Bankshares
Corporation to offer expanded services to business
customers of both companies. Heartland will offer credit/debit/prepaid
card processing and payroll solutions to UBSH’s clients and, in turn,
recommend UBSH’s business banking solutions to its customers. UBSH is
a $2.3 billion bank holding company. Heartland Payment Systems delivers
credit,debit, prepaid card processing, payroll, check
management and payments solutions to more than 250,000 businesses
nationwide.

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FTC Challenges the Reed Elsevier ChoicePoint Deal

The FTC is challenging Reed Elsevier’s proposed acquisition of ChoicePoint. The FTC says the $4.1 billion deal would be anticompetitive and in violation of the antitrust laws, as it would combine the two largest providers of electronic public record services to U.S. law enforcement customers. Through its LexisNexis division, Reed Elsevier provides electronic public records services to law enforcement customers in direct competition with ChoicePoint’s “AutoTrackXP” and “CLEAR.” Together, the two firms account for over 80% of the approximately $60
million U.S. market for the sale of electronic public records services
to law enforcement customers. To eliminate the anticompetitive effects of the proposed acquisition, the FTC said it wants Reed Elsevier to divest assets related to ChoicePoint’s “AutoTrackXP” and “CLEAR” electronic public records services to Thomson Reuters Legal within 15 days after the proposed acquisition is consummated.

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Bad Times Have Little Impact on Credit Card Offerings

The Federal Open Market Committee decided to keep its target for the federal funds rate at 2 percent.

Strains in financial markets have increased significantly and labor markets have weakened further. Economic growth appears to have slowed recently, partly reflecting a softening of household spending. Tight credit conditions, the ongoing housing contraction, and some slowing in export growth are likely to weigh on economic growth over the next few quarters. Over time, the substantial easing of monetary policy, combined with ongoing measures to foster market liquidity, should help to promote moderate economic growth.

Inflation has been high, spurred by the earlier increases in the prices of energy and some other commodities. The Committee expects inflation to moderate later this year and next year, but the inflation outlook remains highly uncertain.

The downside risks to growth and the upside risks to inflation are both of significant concern to the Committee. The Committee will monitor economic and financial developments carefully and will act as needed to promote sustainable economic growth and price stability.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; Christine M. Cumming; Elizabeth A. Duke; Richard W. Fisher; Donald L. Kohn; Randall S. Kroszner; Sandra Pianalto; Charles I. Plosser; Gary H. Stern; and Kevin M. Warsh. Ms. Cumming voted as the alternate for Timothy F. Geithner.

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Card Marketing and Social Responsibility Mix

Market research firm Research and Markets reports that 75%
of executives in the card space believe that “Social
Responsibility” will improve business performance in the long run.
The report, titled “Social Responsibility in Card Marketing and
Operations” revealed that 82% of card executive respondents believe that
companies themselves, not through regulation, will
embrace social responsibility as a core strategy over the next 5 years.
In Europe and the US, SR makes a
greater contribution to corporate reputations than brand image. In
developing countries, SR accounts for 49% of company image compared with
35% for brand image and only 10% for financial management.

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