The National Federation of the Blind, its local affiliate the National Federation of the Blind of the District of Columbia, the Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, and several blind individuals filed suit Wednesday against Chevy Chase Bank, charging that the bank’s more than 800 ATMs in MD, VA and DC are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In a separate suit, the plaintiffs charged Rite Aid Corp. and Diebold with also violating the ADA. The lawsuits allege the ATMs are inaccessible to blind people because they use computer screen text prompts to guide customers through transactions. These screen text prompts are not translated into a medium that is accessible to the blind, such as audio output. Because Diebold manufactures voice-activated ATMs, but chose not to install them in Rite Aid outlets, the suit also seeks punitive damages against Diebold under the provisions of the D.C. Human Rights Act. The two lawsuits, both of which were filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ask the court to order the defendants to make the necessary technological modifications to their ATMs to allow access by persons who are blind or visually impaired.Details
Priceline.com and American Express announced Wednesday that the two companies have formed a marketing alliance to drive small business spending to the wide range of business-to-business offerings expected from a new B2B portal being developed by priceline.com.
Under the three-year, multi-million dollar agreement, American Express Small Business Services charge cards, credit cards and lines of credit will be the “premier” payment products at priceline.com’s B2B portal. American Express will market the portal to its more than 2 million small business customers who will receive an exclusive 5% discount on all purchases.
Priceline.com will promote American Express small business cards and lines of credit to its customers, who will be able to apply online. All new accounts issued through this channel will automatically have $25 added to their first priceline.com offer. The two companies will support the alliance with co-branded TV, radio and newspaper advertising.
Priceline.com said that its first B2B offering is in the telecommunications field. Priceline Long Distance, LLC, (a wholly owned subsidiary of priceline.com) announced today that it has begun offering a new service where small businesses can save up to 40% on their monthly bills. Priceline Long Distance makes it possible for customers to purchase their U.S. and international calling time on a Name Your Own Price(sm) basis. In the future, Priceline Long Distance will offer additional small business-specific features, including real-time billing information, authorization codes for multiple employees and an automatic dialing function.
“With more than 2 million small business customers, and one of the world’s most respected brands, American Express is an ideal partner for priceline.com and our B2B portal,” said Daniel H. Schulman, president and CEO of priceline.com. “We expect that this alliance will enable priceline.com to rapidly establish its B2B market position and ultimately offer a robust collection of valuable B2B services.”
“Priceline.com has revolutionized the marketplace for consumers. We’re confident that they can extend their model to small businesses and are proud to join them in launching their portal later this year,” said Steve Alesio, president of American Express Small Business Services. “American Express has been bringing purchasing power to small businesses for many years. This agreement enhances those efforts to be the smart way small businesses pay, every day — online and off.”
American Express recently launched Blue for Business, a credit card that provides small firms with the financing and e-commerce services they need to launch, manage and grow their business.
Priceline.com is the Name Your Own Price(sm) patented Internet pricing system. Priceline.com currently provides services across four broad product categories: a travel service that offers leisure airline tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars; a personal finance service that offers home mortgages, refinancing and home equity loans through an independent licensee; an automotive service that offers new cars, and a telecommunications service that offers long distance calling services.
Priceline.com licenses its business model to independent licensees, including Priceline WebHouse Club(sm), Inc., which offers a Name Your Own Price(sm) service for groceries; PricelineMortgage(sm) , Priceline Perfect YardSale(sm), Inc., a local-market, consumer-to-consumer selling service, and certain international licensees.
In these arrangements, priceline.com generally receives royalties for licensing its intellectual property. Priceline.com also holds securities carrying the right to purchase a significant equity stake in the licensees under certain conditions. Unless those rights are exercised, the results of licensee operations will not be included in priceline.com’s financial statements.
About American Express
American Express Small Business Services is a unit of American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc. solely dedicated to serving companies with fewer than 100 employees. Small Business Services provides a broad range of financial services, including charge and credit cards, equipment financing, lines of credit and tax and business advisory services. To obtain more information about the Small Business Services group, visit the Small Business Exchange at [www.americanexpress.com/small business].
American Express Company is a diversified worldwide travel, financial and network services company founded in 1850. It is a world leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, financial planning, business services, insurance and international banking.
TRM Corporation, the world’s largest provider of convenience Automatic Teller Machine and photocopier services, has completed two financing facilities that will enable the company to continue the rapid build out of its SmartATM network, both domestically and internationally.
TRM has obtained a $30 million line of credit through Bank of America to acquire automatic teller machines and copiers, and to fund other segments of its business. Separately, TRM has established a $30 million commercial paper conduit facility to provide vault cash to its SmartATM(TM) network.
The $30 million line of credit was put together by Bank of America’s commercial banking office in Portland. “Bank of America is uniquely positioned to support a Portland-based company looking to expand nationally and internationally,” said Larry Ogg, Bank of America President for Oregon and Southwest Washington. “We are very pleased with this partnership and look forward to being a strategic partner for TRM going forward.”
In a separately negotiated deal, TRM established a commercial paper conduit program to provide vault cash to its SmartATM(TM) network. This innovative facility allows TRM to fund its ATM vault cash with an off balance sheet facility funded through the cost-effective commercial paper market. TRM was assisted by McDonald Investment Inc., a subsidiary of KeyCorp (NYSE: KEY) in structuring this program. The lender is an affiliate of DG BANK DEUTSCHE GENOSSENSCHAFTSBANK AG.
“This innovative partnership has produced an effective, low-cost source of funds for our rapidly expanding SmartATM(TM) network,” said Daniel L. Spalding, Vice President and CFO of TRM. “We expect to be able to scale this facility up to the $75 million level as expansion of our ATM network continues. In conjunction with the Bank of America credit facility, we are well positioned to continue our business expansion both in the U.S. and the U.K.”
Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, TRM is a global consumer services company providing cash delivery, balance inquiry, funds transfers and convenience photocopying through a network of SmartATMs(TM) and CopyCenters(TM). TRM owns and operates nearly 37,000 SmartATMs(TM) and CopyCenters(TM) in retail locations. For the past 19 years TRM has provided consumer service solutions to retailers worldwide. TRM can be found online at [http://www.trm.com].
First Data Corp., a leader in electronic commerce and payment services, and Aether Systems, Inc., a leading provider of wireless data services and systems, announced they will jointly develop and market payment products and services to businesses and consumers via wireless devices including mobile phones, Personal Digital Assistants and electronic pagers, as the first step in developing a comprehensive suite of mobile commerce (m-commerce) offerings.
This strategic alliance will leverage the existing expertise and technologies of both Aether Systems and First Data, as well as their leadership positions in the wireless and e-commerce payment markets, respectively. The companies expect to sign a definitive agreement within the next 60 days.
Products to be introduced through this alliance include a wireless wallet, a virtual point-of-sale terminal, and shopping portals. In addition, the companies will help make First Data subsidiary Western Union’s money transfer capabilities accessible to consumers through wireless devices. The first products developed through the relationship are expected to be delivered this year.
The wireless applications market is growing exponentially and represents significant business opportunities for both companies. By the end of 2002, more people are expected to gain access to the Internet through wireless devices than through personal computers, according to International Data Corp.
“The intent of this relationship with Aether is to quickly ramp up First Data’s efforts in m-commerce,” said John Duncan, executive vice president of Internet Commerce at First Data. “We view wireless commerce as yet another platform to enable businesses and consumers to pay anyone, anywhere, anytime, using any device. The market potential of m-commerce clearly provides opportunities to drive sales for merchants and value for consumers, to the benefit of our financial institution clients.”
Dave Oros, Chairman and CEO, Aether Systems, commented, “We are pleased that First Data selected Aether as a partner in the m-commerce space. By utilizing First Data’s existing Internet solutions and Aether’s enabling technologies, a market-commanding product set will emerge. Both Aether’s vertical markets and First Data’s financial institution client base represent the ideal distribution base for m-commerce offerings.”
Atlanta-based First Data Corp. (NYSE: FDC) is a global leader in electronic commerce and payment services. Serving more than two million merchant locations, more than 1,400 card issuers and millions of consumers, First Data makes it easier, faster and more secure for people and businesses to buy goods and services, using virtually any form of payment: credit, debit, stored-value card or check at the point-of-sale, over the Internet or by money wire. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at [http://www.firstdatacorp.com].
Aether Systems, Inc. is a leading provider of wireless and mobile data services allowing real-time communications and transactions across a full range of devices and networks. Using its engineering expertise, the Aether Intelligent Messaging (AIM) software platform, the ScoutWare family of products (resulting from the acquisition of Riverbed Technologies, Inc.) and its network operations and customer service center, Aether Systems seeks to provide comprehensive technology-independent wireless and mobile computing solutions. Aether develops and delivers wireless data services across a variety of industries and market segments in the United States and internationally. Aether is a joint principal owner, along with 3Com Corp., of OmniSky, Inc., a wireless Internet service provider based in Palo Alto, Calif. Aether headquarters are located at 11460 Cronridge Dr., Owings Mills, MD 21117. For more information, please visit the Aether website at [http://www.aethersystems.com].
MasterCard International announced the kick-off of the 2000 Major League Baseball All-Star Game Sweepstakes designed to encourage the use of MasterCard cards and the co-branded Coastal MasterCard card at 534 Coastal stations in the mid-Atlantic and northeast regions.
While no purchase is necessary to enter, eligible MasterCard cardholders will automatically receive one sweepstakes entry when they make any MasterCard card purchase at participating Coastal stations through June 16. The Grand Prize winner will be selected on June 23 and will receive a 3-day, 2-night getaway to the MLB All-Star Game held in Atlanta, Georgia from July 10-12, 2000. More information on the MasterCard 2000 MLB All-Star Game Sweepstakes at Coastal, including the Official Rules and eligibility requirements, can be found at [www.mastercard.com/coastal].
In October 1997, MasterCard signed a multi-year sponsorship agreement making it the preferred card of Major League Baseball.
MasterCard International has the most comprehensive portfolio of payment brands in the world. More than 1 billion MasterCard(R), Cirrus(R) and Maestro(R) logos are present on credit, charge and debit cards in circulation today. An association comprised of 22,000 member financial institutions, MasterCard serves consumers and businesses, both large and small, in 210 countries and territories. MasterCard is the leader in quality and innovation, offering a wide range of payment solutions in the virtual and traditional worlds. With more than 18 million acceptance locations, no card is accepted in more places and by more merchants than the MasterCard Card. In 1999, gross dollar volume exceeded US$727 billion. MasterCard can be reached through its World Wide Web site at [http://www.mastercard.com].
True e-commerce is not on the drawing board for most small businesses. According to a new study by PSI Global, two-thirds of US small businesses are online, and 30% of them have a website, up from 24% in 1998. However a mere 3% of these companies currently use sophisticated electronic payments and cash management services. PSI Global’s annual ‘Small Business Survey’ of 876 businesses with yearly sales of $500,000 to $10 million found that 8% of the companies use their Internet sites to sell online or provide customer service. The research also found that another 19% of all small businesses use the Internet as a communications channel for introducing products and services to potential customers. PSI concludes there are tremendous opportunities for providers of online banking, merchant processing and web-hosting services, particularly in the high-growth segment of the business market.Details
Ex-executives of First USA have banded together to form a new online financial services venture that will feature credit card offers. Richard Vague, First USA’s co-founder, former chairman and CEO, and Jim Stewart, former president and CEO of WingspanBank, are spearheading the formation of Juniper Financial. John Tolleson, co-founder and former chairman of First USA has also joined Juniper’s Board of Directors. Tolleson resigned from Bank One’s board yesterday. The company also announced Wednesday it has raised more than $20 million in initial funding from Benchmark Capital. Other former First USA executives joining Juniper Financial’s management team include: Clint Walker, former First USA general counsel; Ben Brake, former EVP with First USA; Bill Seligman, former First USA director of risk management and credit policy; and Joe Venuti, former SVP, partnership marketing with First USA. The company will be based in Wilmington, DE.Details
Associates First Capital Corporation and Hifi.com, a multi-channel provider of consumer electronics and home entertainment products, announced Wednesday a private label credit card agreement.
Through this agreement, consumers can apply for the Hifi.com E-Card and make purchases only at Hifi.com. The card also offers customers a convenient financing option with regular monthly payments and no annual fee. Customers can apply for the Hifi.com E-Card online or via 1-800-FOR-HIFI. Consumers will receive an instant decision following application.
The private label credit card program will be operated in partnership with Associates Commerce Solutions (ACS), a unit of Associates First Capital Corporation. Hifi.com is a sister company to Cambridge SoundWorks, a manufacturer of home entertainment and multimedia products, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Creative Technology Ltd. (Nasdaq:CREAF).
“We are pleased to help Hifi.com grow its business by providing customers with additional financing options,” said Richard L. Robinson, president of Associates Commerce Solutions.
“The Hifi.com E-card builds on our commitment to provide our customers with the alternate payment options they seek, and complements our existing financing programs,” said Michael Sullivan, president of Hifi.com.
Hifi.com has been named one of the “Top 100 Web Sites” by PC Magazine and one of the “Best Sites on the Web” by TIME Digital. Hifi.com is the Internet’s exclusive e-tailer for Marantz, Celestion and Cambridge SoundWorks in home audio, and is an authorized e-tailer for Sony, Onkyo, Harman Kardon, JBL, Philips, Samsung, JVC, Panasonic, Aiwa, Niles, Russound, Kodak and Creative Labs, Inc.
ACS is a leading provider of private label credit card programs and technology-based commerce solutions and is headquartered in Deerfield, Ill.
Associates First Capital Corporation, established in 1918, is a leading diversified finance company providing consumer and commercial finance, leasing, insurance and related services worldwide. The Associates, headquartered in Dallas, has operations in the United States and 13 international markets. The Associates is a Fortune 150 company and is listed among the magazine’s Most Admired Companies. For more information, visit The Associates Web site at [www.theassociates.com]
Hifi.com’s offline and online channels include the Cambridge SoundWorks retail chain, the www.hifi.com Web site, and the branded Hifi.com catalog. Created to set the standard for customer service in the consumer electronics/home entertainment category, Hifi.com offers leading brands, valuable information, and advice from audio, video and home electronics experts online and via its Call Center (1-800-FOR-HIFI), which operates 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
A consumer protection lawsuit against Direct Merchants Credit Card Bank, and its parent company Metris Companies was filed yesterday in Minnesota state court. The suit alleges Direct Merchants/Metris engaged in widespread deceptive and unlawful business practices. The lead plaintiff is a California resident. The action seeks class action status. Among the alleged misconduct by Direct Merchants Bank: routinely assesses fees for the purchase of fee-based services, such as its ‘PurchaseShield’ program, that cardholders did not authorize; repeatedly charges late payment fees and interest for cardholder payments that are not in fact late or delayed; makes solicitations in connection with checks issued to cardholders that are misleading and do not disclose the true value of the checks issued to cardholders; and regularly promises a lower interest rate in connection with balance transfers, convenience checks and cash advances than the interest rate that the cardholder receives. The national law firms involved in representing consumers are Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein and Zimmerman Reed. Direct Merchants and Metris says it will vigorously defend itself.Details
Participants in NACHA’s ‘Internet Secure ATM Payments’ pilot confirmed Wednesday they have successfully sent a digitally signed payment through an EFT network. This marks a first for the USA. The payment was made during a series of technical tests to enable ATM/debit cards to be securely used to pay for Internet purchases. In the technical tests, a digitally signed payment request was successfully sent from a simulated merchant web site through the STAR network to Citibank, which verified the digital signature to complete the transaction. A collaboration of ActivCard, AmeriNet, ANI Services, A-OK Network, Certicom and UTM Systems developed the technology and protocols. A full pilot is scheduled for later this year. In the full pilot, a consumer making an Internet purchase using an ATM card would use his or her card number, but instead of using a PIN, the consumer would digitally sign an electronic payment request. The digital signature is generated by a private key, which has been issued by the consumer’s bank and is securely stored in a chip on a device such as a smart card, token or software storage device.Details
NCR Corporation announced orders with India’s leading new private sector banks, HDFC Bank, IDBI Bank, UTI Bank and ICICI Bank totalling 500 ATMs. Some 250 ATMs have also been ordered by other financial institutions in India.
These orders account for a four-fold growth for NCR this year and represent a 50% increase in India’s total installed base of ATMs.
NCR’s success includes an order for 200 Personas 75 ATMs from UTI Bank. According to Hemant Kaul, vice president of marketing and retail banking, UTI Bank Ltd., “Our partnership with NCR has been central to our strategy of bringing new technology in the financial services market in the country and pioneering new uses of ATMs like bill payments.”
NCR sees the consumer benefits of self-service fueling further growth in ATM deployment across India. “The region’s leading banks recognize that the convenience of self-service gives them the edge in an increasingly competitive market,” said Bob Tramontano, vice president of marketing and new business development for NCR’s Financial Solutions Group. “We are investing in further support services for ATM deployers in India. By the end of this year we expect to be number one in market share after only four years of entering the market.”
As C.N. Ram, head of information technology at HDFC, who ordered 150 NCR ATMs, explains, “NCR has helped us to develop one of the most efficient and reliable self-service networks in India. And the new color-branded Personas ATMs have been a crowd puller, enhancing the brand of the delivery channel.”
About NCR Corporation
NCR Corporation (NYSE: NCR) is a recognized world leader in providing Relationship Technology(TM) solutions for the retail, financial, communications, travel and transportation, and insurance markets. NCR’s Relationship Technology solutions include store automation, ATMs and privacy- enabled Teradata(R) warehouses. The company’s business solutions are built on the foundation of its long-established industry knowledge and consulting expertise, value-adding software, global customer support services, a complete line of consumable and media products, and world-leading hardware technology. More information about NCR and its solutions may be found at [http://www.ncr.com].
UT-based ProPay introduced a personal payment service that enables consumers to beam payments to each other via PDAs. The ProPay system allows individuals to accept credit card payments from one another in person or online. Individuals can accept payments once they obtain a free individual merchant account, or ‘Commerce Account’, by registering at the ProPay Web site. There are no set-up fees or monthly charges normally associated with a merchant account. The only cost is a transaction fee, which is currently 35 cents plus 3.5% of the transaction total. Unlike systems that only use credit cards to pre-fund an account, buyers retain the ability to charge back a disputed transaction. For a limited time, new account holders will receive a $10 deposit into their ProPay account and a $10 referral bonus for each friend who opens an account.Details