Credit Insurance Slammed

Consumers Union charged yesterday that Americans are being overcharged to the tune of $2 billion per year for credit insurance associated with credit cards, car loans and personal loans. The group said state insurance regulators were to blame due to their poor oversight of credit insurance sales. Most insurance packages on bank credit cards charge approximately 59 cents per $100 of credit card balance per month. A $4,000 average credit card balance will incur an average annual insurance premium of $284 per year. However, the actual rates and coverage vary by state regulations. Most card insurance programs cover life, disability and involuntary unemployment. In response to CU’s charges, the Consumer Credit Insurance Association said that consumers choose credit insurance products because they understand the value of the insurance and make a voluntary choice to purchase it when they borrow. The CCIA also said the methodology of the CU report is flawed because it lumps all forms of credit insurance into one analysis and lacks basic business understanding of distribution costs. The CCIA said the report clings to discredited assertions concerning marketing practices that ignore the fundamental fact that consumers must, by law and regulation, as well as market conduct expectations, receive notice they have the option to say yes or no to credit insurance.

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SofTerminal

CA-based PaymentNet released ‘SoftTerminal’ yesterday, the first Internet-based solution for real-time processing of Level II corporate purchase cards. Because ‘SoftTerminal’ is Web-based, it can be replicated by merchants at multiple physical locations for no additional cost. Also, software upgrades are handled on the ‘Soft Terminal’ server, rather than deployed via costly physical media and field upgraded either by the user or by a field representative. The ‘SoftTerminal’ service will be resold initially by First Data Merchant Services Corporation. ‘SoftTerminal’ has also been endorsed by VISA USA’s Commercial Commerce Division.

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Cyberflex Access Ships

Schlumberger has begun shipping Cyberflex Access, a new smart card based on Java technology that combines multiple application capabilities with built-in cryptographic services. Cyberflex Access provides information security services — digital signature, authentication and authorization — along with application security features, such as secure remote Java Card applet loading using digital signatures.

As the world’s first commercially available card with this combination of features, Cyberflex Access complies with the current Java Card API 2.0 specification from Sun Microsystems, Inc., and the primary features of the new Java Card API 2.1 specification. In addition, it is backward compatible with the most recent Java-based smart card from Schlumberger, the industry-leading Cyberflex Open 16K card.

“Cyberflex Access is the smart card that IT professionals have been awaiting,” said Tom Lebsack, director, Multiple Applications, North America, Schlumberger Smart Cards & Terminals. “Cyberflex Access continues the pioneering work of Schlumberger in the Java card field, delivering the power of smart card technology in an open, user-programmable form to help customers cut both cost and time-to-market.”

“The new Schlumberger smart card product utilizing Java technology is a milestone in the deployment of the platform,” said Patrice Peyret, director, Consumer & Embedded, Sun Microsystems. “The combined benefits of public-key based authentication services with Java programmability are perfect for all networked based services. The Information Technology world has been eagerly awaiting such a product.”

“The pioneering work that Schlumberger has accomplished with Java Card has attracted the attention of software companies worldwide, especially those that are leading the way in the high-growth mobile and embedded applications markets,” stated Greg Jones, director of Mobile and Embedded Products for Pervasive Software, a leading provider of information management solutions. “Cyberflex Access will allow companies to easily develop and implement solutions to facilitate Internet commerce and intranet business initiatives where security of information and transactions are critical.”

The Cyberflex Access smart card enables issuers and developers to implement smart card-based programs with Java technology in environments which require information security features based on strong cryptography. The card is ideal for corporate, government, IT and health care applications. Additionally, the card’s optional internal cryptographic functions bring security in applet downloading, ensuring that only properly signed applets are allowed onto a card.

Cyberflex Access features 16 Kbytes of EEPROM memory, enough to store several Java smart card programs or Cardlets(TM), a comprehensive cryptographic library including RSA, DES and triple DES functions and a SHA-1 hashing algorithm. The on-board library and computational power combined with Java programmability hold the key to the card’s versatility. This enables developers to secure transactions via digital signature and authentication services, utilizing the optimal tool to suit the nature of the network and the risks involved.

As with previous Schlumberger Java cards, Cyberflex Access is supported by the Cyberflex Development Kit with its powerful utilities for developing, testing and loading programs onto Cyberflex. The Cyberflex Development Kit works in conjunction with standard Java development tools such as Microsoft’s Visual J++, Sun’s JDK and Symantec Cafe. Cyberflex Access is also PC/SC compliant. An added benefit to developers is the ability to access the Schlumberger Cyberflex User’s Forum, the most unique and effective support mechanism in the Java card world, at ().

Java-based smart cards are the ideal platform for allowing applications from one or more providers to securely reside side-by-side on the same smart card. Multiple application cards provide convenience for users and differentiated, market-specific products for issuers. As the first and most advanced Java card product, Cyberflex continues to lead the industry. Its indispensable features will help realize the vision of widespread smart card usage. Additional information is available at ().

About Schlumberger

Schlumberger Smart Cards & Terminals is the leading provider of smart card-based solutions worldwide, shaping the new world of smart solutions by providing leading-edge technology to enable innovative smart card and terminal applications that enhance the security and convenience of businesses and communities of all kinds. Schlumberger smart card solutions encompass a wide range of cards, terminals, development tools and support in open configurations for operators, developers, integrators and distributors worldwide. As part of the Smart Village(R) vision, the Schlumberger offer includes the milestone Cyberflex(TM) card, the industry’s first Java(TM)-based smart card. The Smart Cards & Terminals group operates 45 facilities in 34 countries across the globe. Additional information is available on the World Wide Web at (http://www.slb.com/smart cards).

Schlumberger Test & Transactions is the parent division for Schlumberger Smart Cards & Terminals and Schlumberger Automated Test Equipment, leveraging the combined strengths of the two business units to provide leading-edge, cost-effective solutions to customers.

Schlumberger Test & Transactions is a business unit of Schlumberger Limited, a $11.8 billion global technology service company providing oilfield services, natural resources management, transactions-based technology and associated systems, and semiconductor test equipment.

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Frontier Lawsuit

Miami-based Blackstone Calling Card Inc., was awarded a $5.7 million judgment in its lawsuit against Frontier Communications Services Inc. and Frontier Communications International Inc.. Frontier was also ordered to pay Blackstone more than $26,000 in administrative fees Blackstone had paid to the American Arbitration Association. The claim was based on the negligent hiring and negligent supervision of a Frontier a senior sales representative.

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Internet Acquiring Boom

First Annapolis Consulting reported yesterday that 74% of processors and acquirers intend to increase their Internet acquiring and processing services in the foreseeable future. Currently 80% of players are processing Internet transactions and also processing Internet-only merchants. Two major concerns voiced by acquirers in the survey were fraud and viability of Internet merchants. Although 88% of the acquirers surveyed have not experienced increases in fraud, the concern exists due to the fear that fraud levels will increase as firms handle more Internet transactions. Acquirers feel the possibility of fraud certainly exists given the card-not-present nature of the business, the anonymity of merchants, and the possible change of merchandise mix. The low cost of entry and low capitalization requirements of Internet merchants add additional risk for acquirers, according to some of the respondents. Sixty-three percent of the participants in the First Annapolis survey rank among the top 50 merchant acquirers in the US.

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TASQ to Distribute Tellan Software

Tellan Software Inc., a leader in electronic-transaction processing software, Monday announced a strategic alliance with TASQ Technology, the largest provider of information and inventory management business solutions for the point-of-sale (POS) equipment and supply industry. The alliance will facilitate distribution of Tellan’s PCAuthorize and MacAuthorize software products to TASQ’s channel of partners, representing 1.5 million merchants and 4,000 direct bank and Independent Sales Organizations (ISO) relationships.

TASQ’s deployment expertise will streamline implementation of Tellan’s cost-effective authorization solutions for merchants, banks and ISOs. In addition to PCAuthorize and MacAuthorize, Tellan manufactures and distributes a powerful line of electronic payment solutions for Internet commerce, mail-order and home-based businesses, businesses using PCs as their electronic cash registers, and global enterprises wishing to consolidate payment applications into a centralized payment platform.

“We are delighted to be associated with TASQ as they represent the best in the payment industry,” said Donald Neff, president and CEO of Tellan Software. “We feel this milestone shows the direction of the payment industry moving from hardware to more integrated software solutions.”

TASQ executive vice president Randy Simoneaux commented: “Tellan has earned an outstanding reputation for providing quality payment-processing software solutions. The PCAuthorize product will deliver a unique and complete value-based PC solution to our channel.”

About Tellan Software, Inc.:

Tellan Software manufactures and distributes a robust line of electronic payment solutions for Internet commerce, business establishments using PCs as their electronic cash registers, mail order and home-based businesses, as well as global enterprises wishing to consolidate payment applications into a centralized payment platform. Tellan Software is a privately held corporation with headquarters in San Jose, California. For more information, visit Tellan on the World Wide Web at:

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CreditConnection Patent

Credit Management Solutions, Inc. Monday announced that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued the company U.S. Patent 5,878,403 on its CreditConnection service, an electronic commerce service for online lending. The CreditConnection service links credit originators with funding sources nationwide and in Canada to allow the originators to transmit credit applications and receive decisions.

Currently in use for automobile and recreational vehicle lending and leasing, CreditConnection incorporates a standard methodology that allows the transmission of an individual application to multiple funding sources. “This underlying methodology will support our expansion of the CreditConnection service to a wide range of consumer and business credit types,” said Peter M. Leger, president and COO of CMSI. Leger further stated that, “While there is at present no standard for this type of lending, we believe that this methodology, along with the strength of our technology, supports CreditConnection becoming the standard. We are delighted that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has recognized the unique nature of the service by granting us this patent.”

The CreditConnection patent covers interactive credit application and routing systems and methods that allow credit applications to be received electronically from credit originators and forwarded to lenders, either simultaneously or sequentially, and allow the lenders’ credit decisions to be returned electronically to the credit originator. If an application is sent sequentially, the credit originator can instruct the system whether to automatically send to the next lender based on the credit decision received from the previous lender or a predetermined time delay, until a credit approval is received from a lender. The connections between credit originators, lenders, and the CreditConnection host computer are either through private telecommunications lines or the Internet.

The patented technology may also be used in connection with web-based technologies like CMSI’s CreditOnline(R) as the method of transmitting credit applications to lenders and receiving decisions made by the lenders using their own decisioning systems. “Another good example of this leverage,” Leger said, “is the Internet online financing technology that CMSI is rolling out in its strategic alliance with LendingTree, Inc. which was announced on March 1, 1999. LendingTree is one of the fastest growing online loan centers available to consumers on the Internet.”

Vehicle dealers nationwide are using the CreditConnection service to improve productivity, profitability, and customer service in their Finance and Insurance (F & I) department, a key source of dealership profits. Using the Internet or another network, applications can be delivered electronically directly into a lender’s credit decisioning system and decisions returned to the dealer within minutes. In addition, CreditConnection manages the department workflow electronically, tracking the status of each application and eliminating the need for time-consuming logs and follow-up calls. This allows the F & I manager to concentrate on more profitable tasks and improve service to the dealership’s customers at the same time. The system also delivers a variety of strategic reports that allow the dealership to better manage all of its financing relationships.

Today, CreditConnection dealers can communicate electronically with some of the largest financial institutions, finance companies and captive finance companies that provide automobile credit, including AmeriCredit; BancOne; Bank of America; Bank of Montreal; Key Bank; NationsBank; PNC; Wachovia; WFS Financial; GMAC, the captive finance company of General Motors; and NMAC, the captive finance company of Nissan Motors. “Lenders and credit originators are acutely aware that the future of lending lies in the Internet,” said CMSI’s Leger. “The CreditConnection patent is another step in CMSI’s strategy to maintain leadership in the area of credit management technology.”

About CMSI

Founded in 1987 and headquartered in Annapolis Junction, Md., Credit Management Solutions, Inc. provides consumer credit automation and loan marketing software and services to major financial institutions and non-bank financial companies. Its flagship product, CreditRevue(R), is a credit origination and processing system used by financial institutions to automate and speed the processing and decisioning of all types of consumer loan products. CreditRevue clients include NationsBank, Banc One, Wells Fargo, The Associates, Wachovia, WFS Financial, and Nellie Mae. The CreditConnection service is a combined electronic network and service which electronically connects credit originators with multiple financing sources for the submission and decisioning of loans and leases. In the automotive sector, CMSI has entered into strategic alliances with Automatic Data Processing (ADP) Dealer Services Group, and Universal Computer Systems, Inc. (UCS), the nation’s leading providers of products and services to auto dealers and manufacturers’ captive finance companies. In the small business credit sector, the company has entered into a strategic alliance with Dun & Bradstreet, Inc., the world’s leading provider of business-to-business credit, marketing information, and receivables management services.

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TSAI Buys Incession

Transaction Systems Architects, Inc., one of the world’s leading providers of EFT processing solutions, announced Monday that it has acquired approximately 72% of the outstanding shares of Insession, Inc., a privately held corporation based in Boulder, Colorado for approximately 666,000 shares of Transaction Systems’ Class A Common Stock.

Insession, Inc. was formed in 1991 and develops software products for the enterprise application server and networking marketplace. Insessions’ primary software product is ICE (Intersystem Communications Environment). The ICE solution enables Tandem Computer users to communicate and exchange data with mainframe systems over SNA, APPN and TCP/IP communication protocols.

“TSA has been an exclusive distributor of the ICE product since 1991 and it is a good addition to our product set” said Greg Duman, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Transaction Systems Architects, Inc. “Many of the largest banks around the world who run our Tandem-based ATM and POS systems rely on ICE to connect their Tandem systems to their mainframes in order to access critical customer data.”

Transaction Systems Architects’ software facilitates electronic payments by providing consumers and companies access to their money. Its products are used to process transactions involving credit cards, debit cards, smart cards, home banking services, checks, wire transfers as well as automated clearing and settlement. Transaction Systems’ solutions are used on more than 3,300 product systems in 70 countries on six continents.

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ECHO – Magic

Electronic Clearing House Inc. has signed a letter of intent to acquire Magic Software Development Inc for stock and an earn-out. Magic provides electronic check conversion, electronic check re-presentment, payday loan, check verification, and check guarantee solutions to financial services companies and retailers. Based in Albuquerque, N.M., Magic has 11 employees and processes more than 75 million check verification transactions per year, totaling more than $2 billion. ECHO says it will now be strategically positioned to provide a complete check conversion system that includes a front-end authorization and capture and back-end processing and settlement. ECHO also says it sees a huge market potential in electronic checks.

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One Million Served

MasterCard International confirmed yesterday that its ‘MasterCard Global Service’ program, launched in 1995, has serviced more than one million card-related requests to-date from cardholders in 196 countries utilizing the service when they traveled abroad. MasterCard said that despite handling the requests in 46 languages it achieved a 96% satisfaction rating. Last year MasterCard says it reached an all-time high with over 500,000 services handled through its ‘MasterCard Global Service Center’. MasterCard expects more than 600 million people will travel internationally this year, and that number is expected to double in the next 15 years. Credit card usage among travelers is high, with the average expenditure for an international business trip at US$4,314, with 60% being paid on a credit card. Among services offered: Lost and Stolen Card Reporting, Emergency Card Replacement, Emergency Cash Advance, Access to Account Information and MasterCard Card Enhancements and MasterCard/Cirrus Cash Machine Location Information.

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Phone Cards Dive

Long distance rates for prepaid phone cards are in a downward spiral. Last month a 5.9 cents per minute rate was announced by at least one provider. OH-based Standard Register says this morning that prepaid phone cards are now offering domestic long-distance rates averaging 20 cents per minute, with some as low as two cents per minute for the first five minutes. The company says the trend toward reduced prepaid long-distance rates should continue throughout 1999.

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