VISA & Netroscope

Netroscope, the leading Internet market-research and consulting firm focused on evaluating cutting-edge computer technologies and market trends, this week announced the addition of John Valente, Senior Vice President of Visa International, to the company’s Board of Advisors.

John Valente is Senior Vice President in charge of the Information Application Development Division for Visa International. Valente’s current responsibilities include the areas of WEB Development, Data Warehousing, Predictive Systems and the distribution of information throughout Visa and to its Member financial institutions. Prior to his current duties Valente led a 5 year effort to redevelop the main Clearing and Settlement processes within Visa. These systems process over 100 Million transactions and settle over $3 Billion dollars a day.

“I strongly believe in Netroscope’s continued success and rapid growth as a leading Internet market-research and consulting company,” said John Valente, Senior Vice President, Visa International. “I look forward to guiding Netroscope to their next level of industry-wide business strategies.”

John Valente joins Netroscope’s Advisory Board along side Craig Canine, Managing Editor of Computer Letters at Technologic Partners; Sandy Creighton, General Counsel of MIPS Technologies, Inc.; Barbara Dawson, Director of Software Strategies in Business Desktop Marketing at Intel Corporation; Dr. Siamak Hassanzadeh, Senior Business Development Manager of Sun Microsystems; Maureen O’Gara, Publisher at G2 Computer Intelligence; Art Olbert, Vice President of Business Development at IBM Corporation; and Linda Reid, Vice Chair of Engineering at UC Berkeley Extension.

“We feel privileged to have such a distinguished industry leader take a proactive role in providing guidance for our company,” said Natalie Shaheen, Founder and President of Netroscope. “Mr. Valente will bring industry insight and expertise to Netroscope from a strategic IT organization’s vantage point.”

Prior to joining Visa, Valente held the position of Vice President with Citicorp, responsible for new systems development supporting Citicorp’s Consumer Retail Banking and Credit Card businesses. He also held various systems development management positions with Norton Company, a Worcester Massachusetts based manufacturing firm. In total Valente has over 29 years experience in the Information Systems Development arena.

About Netroscope

Netroscope is a cyber-centric market-research and consulting company focused on evaluation and assessment of leading-edge technologies and market trends, with the objective of supporting strategic business requirements of the industry. Netroscope’s services include syndicated and customized research, marketing and sales support services, assessment of corporate and vendor trends, “thinking council” advisory services, monthly newsletters, and daily alerts. For more information about services offered by Netroscope, please contact Netroscope, Inc.

Details

Bankruptcy Reform Returns

The ‘Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1999’ was introduced into the U.S. House yesterday by Rep. George Gekas. The legislation mirrors the bankruptcy reform bill considered last year. The legislation would force more consumers to file Chapter 13 instead of Chapter 7. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde said. “Our nation’s bankruptcy system is one of the world’s most progressive, and we must keep it that way.” Hyde said the system is being undermined by a deluge of bankruptcy filings during this period of unparalleled prosperity. The economic cost of this burden is largely borne by responsible consumers who, as a result, are paying higher interest rates for borrowed funds. “Congress must confront the issue directly and curb abusive and predatory practices of those who would game the system,” he added. Bankruptcy filings continue to reach record levels. For the 12 month period ending Sept. 30, bankruptcy filings reached an all time high of 1,436,964. Chapter 7 filings accounted for 71% of the total, while Chapter 13 filings accounted for 28%. Personal bankruptcy in Japan continues to grow by 40% annually. Last year 103,800 individuals filed for personal bankruptcy in Japan compared to 56,494 in 1996.

Details

Phone Card Crammer Settles

Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher announced yesterday that Pennsylvania and 14 other states have reached a settlement with a Texas-based company accused of using deceptive tactics to enroll thousands of consumers across the country in a telephone “calling card” program.

Fisher said his Bureau of Consumer Protection reached the agreement with RRV Enterprises, Inc., of Houston, Texas, doing business as Consumer Access, a long distance telephone reseller. The “Assurance of Voluntary Compliance” agreement resolves alleged violations of Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.

According to the Attorneys General, Consumer Access in 1997 and 1998 held contests to give away a car or a significant cash prize. Consumer complaints revealed that many had entered the contest without realizing they had enrolled in the telephone “calling card” program, which resulted in monthly service charges being billed to their home telephone.

“This alleged practice is known as `cramming,'” Fisher said. “We contend that in this particular case thousands of consumers believed they were entering a contest, not buying a calling card. In the majority of complaints my office received, consumers said they first learned about the `calling card’ program when the initial fee or service charges appeared on their phone bill.”

Fisher said the $4.96 activation fee and $4.06 minimum monthly service charge appeared on consumers’ telephone bills without explanation. In some cases, he said, these charges went undetected for several months.

“We believe the agreement will change the way this `calling card’ service is promoted,” Fisher said. “As a result, the alleged practice of billing for unauthorized services will stop.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Consumer Access does not admit to any wrongdoing and agrees to:

— pay a full refund to consumers who were billed for services within the last year but denied signing the entry form or authorizing the service.

— refund the activation fee and one month’s charges for consumers who claim they were unaware they had signed up for the “calling card” when entering the contest.

— refrain from billing any consumers in the future without first obtaining the proper authorization.

— create two-part forms that allow consumers to enter a contest without enrolling in any program for goods or services.

— clearly and conspicuously disclose the nature of the solicitation.

— send consumers a confirmation letter prior to billing.

Consumers who suspect they are eligible for a refund should contact Fisher’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555 to file a complaint. Complaint forms can also be obtained by visiting the Attorney General’s website at .

The company will also pay $490,000 to the states for the costs of investigation and public protection purposes. Pennsylvania’s share will be $35,000.

The 14 other states participating in the settlement include: Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

The agreement was negotiated by Senior Deputy Attorney General E. Barry Creany of Fisher’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in Ebensburg.

Details

i2u Banking

Online System Services said Wednesday it will deliver ‘i2u Banking’, a customized, turn-key electronic banking solution, to CU Cooperative Systems, Inc. (CO-OP Network), the largest credit union EFT network in the country encompassing over 500 credit unions and over seven million cardholders. The contract is projected to generate $25 million in revenue over its five-year term for OSS.

Details

Smart Card Biometrics

In a move to provide the highest level of security for electronic transactions, Schlumberger has signed a memorandum of understanding with Keyware Technologies. Under the agreement, Keyware will use Schlumberger smart card technology as a platform for its Layered Biometric Verification (LBV) technology, enabling Schlumberger and its Business Associates to deliver innovative and exceptionally secure solutions to customers world-wide.

LBV(R) adds an important new dimension to the high levels of security Schlumberger provides against smart card forgery and cloning, by ensuring that the card user is indeed the legitimate owner. Such assurance is vital for controlling access to secure areas or to sensitive computer information. Smart card-based solutions offer major advantages over traditional biometric verification delivery technologies which typically require on-line access to databases of personal information.

“Security is a key driver for the adoption of smart-card based solutions, and we are continually seeking to extend our portfolio of techniques,” said Geoffrey Morton, Schlumberger Manager, Business Associates. “The use of biometric identification for controlling access is becoming increasingly popular for government and military applications and in areas like healthcare and e-commerce. As well as helping to deliver the enhanced levels of security these sectors are seeking, Keyware’s unique open architecture software gives great flexibility in developing custom solutions.”

“Smart card-based biometric verification opens the door to a whole range of very powerful secure applications,” said Francis Declercq, Keyware Technologies President & CEO. “At the same time, it gives individuals ownership of their personal information. Schlumberger has a proven track record in smart card technology and readers, and shares our innovative approach to meeting customer demand for creative solutions which are user friendly and simple to deploy.”

Biometric verification relies on referencing stored details of unique personal attributes – such as fingerprints, voice, facial characteristics – to verify identity, and is becoming increasingly popular for secure and sensitive applications. By storing this personal information on a smart card, users will in future carry a completely foolproof means of identification. Identities can be verified off-line within a smart card terminal, using the processing capability of a voice/face verification DSP chip currently under development by Keyware. This ability to check identity locally – potentially using a spoken password – means for example that public and mobile phone networks could provide the infrastructure for highly secure communications.

Keyware Technologies’ LBV(R) open architecture allows several different biometric verification technologies to be integrated, further enhancing flexibility and providing considerable scope for tailored solutions.

About Keyware Technologies

Keyware Technologies is a global technology company and the pioneer and leader in Layered Biometric Verification (LBV(R)) for enhanced security. Keyware specializes in applied biometrics – the science of verifying an individual’s identity by means of personal characteristics such as voice, face and fingerprints. These unique and inimitable biometric features are recorded, analyzed and matched against previously stored spoken passwords, prints and facial snapshots and ensure the highest possible security levels. Keyware Technologies uses biometrics to create security solutions for multiple markets including network and data security (e.g. Internet & Intranet, remote access, desktop access), telephony and physical access control. The company was founded in 1996 and has a head-office in Brussels and an office in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1998 Keyware Technologies received the ‘Special Achievement Award’ from the editors and readers of Computer Magazine and the Voice+ Award for ‘Best Mobile Solution’. Keyware Technologies offers its products through OEM’s to System Integrators and VARs. For more information visit Keyware’s Web site at www.keyware.com or try out our voice verification demonstration over the phone at +32 2 721 58 29.

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

Schlumberger Test & Transactions comprises Schlumberger Smart Cards & Terminals and Schlumberger Automated Test Equipment, leveraging the combined strengths of these 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.

Layered Biometric Verification and LBV are registered trademarks of Keyware Technologies. Cyberflex and Reflex are trademarks, and Smart Village is a registered trademark of Schlumberger. Java and Java Card are trademarks of Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Details

M&I Data Deal

M&I Data Services, a leading financial software and services provider, has signed an outsourcing agreement with Mount Prospect National Bank, the fastest growing financial institution in northern Illinois. The bank opened its doors in September 1997 and by the end of 1998 had assets of $97 million. Mount Prospect National Bank draws its customer base from both inside and outside the Cook County, Ill., area. The bank will complete its transition to M&I Data Services in May of this year.

Mount Prospect National Bank needed a new processing partner after its current provider decided to exit the outsourcing business. The choice to partner with M&I Data Services was based on Mount Prospect’s need for a high quality processing platform that offered the sophisticated banking products demanded by both retail and corporate customers. Also key to the decision was the reputation M&I Data Services possesses for high quality conversions.

M&I Data Services will provide all core application processing as well as equip the bank with BankerInsight(TM), a Windows-based, customer-focused software application for call centers and branches. Mt. Prospect National Bank will also utilize data warehouse, telephone banking, Internet banking, cash management and EFT/debit card processing services from M&I Data Services.

“My team, all 15+ year banking veterans, recognized that our technology partner is the key to meeting the changing needs of our customers,” said John Eilering, president, Mount Prospect National Bank. “We quickly determined that the advanced technology and proven high quality service offered by M&I Data Services puts it head and shoulders above the rest of the industry. And we are extremely pleased to have them as our technology partner for the future.”

M&I Data Services has provided financial institutions with a combination of technical expertise and banking knowledge for more than 30 years. “We are delighted to have Mount Prospect National Bank as a new customer,” said Owen Sullivan, president of the Outsourcing Business Group at M&I Data Services. “It is our mission to help our customers gain a competitive advantage through implementation of our technologically advanced software products and full range of integrated services.”

Mount Prospect National Bank is locally owned and operated, with more than $97 million in assets and $87 million in deposits. This financial institution is headquartered in Mount Prospect, Ill.

M&I Data Services is a provider of leading-edge technology solutions to the financial services industry. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., it offers consulting, software and processing solutions for financial institutions worldwide. The company’s rapid growth is being fueled by innovative product development, strategic product acquisitions and strong growth of its customer relationships. M&I Data Services is a division of Marshall & Ilsley Corporation (Nasdaq: MRIS), a $21.6 billion holding company. For more information, visit the M&I Data Services Web site at

Details

MasterCard – France

MasterCard International and the French Government Tourist Office kicked-off the third year of an exclusive alliance to promote France as a destination for travelers around the world. At the cornerstone of the alliance is MasterCard ‘Exclusives’ program, which offers customized travel packages; value certificates for special shopping and airline discounts and hotel and restaurant offers through the official France ‘1999 Discovery Guide’; airfare discounts; preferential treatment from designated hotels; free car rentals; and an ‘Insider’s Good Value Guide to France’. Through a comprehensive print and online advertising program, a marketing campaign with travel agents, and cardholder statement inserts, the program reached over five million travelers last year. Earlier this week MasterCard announced sweepstakes with Preview Travel for a Millennium Party at a French chateau.

Details

Card Protection Firms Settle

GEP, INC., and Bank Card Security Center, Inc., both of Casselberry, Florida and their owner, Steven Zwicker, have agreed to pay a $44,000 civil penalty, and in a separate settlement, Executive Industries, Ltd., and its owner Tony Cosantino, have also agreed to pay $22,000 in civil penalties to settle Federal Trade Commission charges. Both sets of defendants were charged by the FTC with selling a program that they claimed protected consumers from losses associated with lost or stolen credit cards. The companies misrepresented the extent of cardholders’ liability for the unauthorized use of a credit card, as well as the companies’ affiliation with consumers’ credit card issuers. The FTC alleged that the defendants, during their sales pitch, also violated the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by making false and misleading statements to induce consumers to purchase their services. In addition to paying civil penalties, both settlements also would prohibit the defendants from making any misrepresentations of fact material to a consumer’s purchasing decision.

According to the FTC’s complaint detailing the charges, GEP and Executive Industries sold the credit card protection program through telemarketing rooms on behalf of Tracker Corporation of America. (Tracker was a defendant with whom the FTC recently settled. According to that settlement, Tracker, a Canadian corporation and its president, Bruce Lewis, are permanently barred from selling credit card protection.) Bank Card Security Center sold the same program for itself. The FTC alleged that the defendants falsely represented to consumers that they were calling from, or on behalf of, the consumers’ credit card issuer. The FTC also alleged that the defendants falsely stated that to avoid liability for unauthorized charges, consumers only had 48 hours to report loss of a credit card, or its unauthorized use, and that failing to do so, consumers could be liable for thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. In fact, federal law limits consumers’ liability for unauthorized charges to $50 per credit card, and there is no specified time limit for reporting loss, theft, or unauthorized use of a credit card.

In separate proposed settlements, the defendants would be prohibited from future violations of the TSR, misrepresenting affiliation with any consumer credit card issuer, misrepresenting any consumer legal rights or obligations, or misrepresenting any other material fact to consumers. The settlements also would prohibit the defendants from disclosing information about consumers who purchased credit card protection from them.

Finally, the settlements contain other recordkeeping requirements to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants’ compliance.

The Commission vote to forward the complaints and the proposed consent decrees to the Department of Justice for filing was 4-0. The complaint and consent decree against Gep, Inc., Bank Card, and Swicker were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, in Orlando on February 23, 1999. The complaint and consent decree against Executive Industries and Costantino were filed in the U.S. District Court, District of Arizona, in Phoenix on February 23, 1999. They are subject to court approval.

Details

New ABA Conventions

The American Bankers Association announced Wednesday that it will host two new conferences for electronic financial services. ‘E-Customer Forum’, will be presented by BusinessWeek and ABA, July 19 – 20 in San Francisco. The ‘ABA Future Payments Conference’ will be held Sept. 12-15 in Chicago. The San Francisco conference will give executives ideas on connecting with customers in cyberspace, learning the key business strategies of online retailers, and understanding how to bridge the gaps between business strategists and technology implementers.

Details

Triton ATM Processing

Triton Systems announced Wednesday its entry into off-premise ATM processing in Canada through its wholly owned Canadian subsidiary, Calypso Canada Ltd. Calypso Canada is closely allied with Sun Life Trust Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sun Life Assurance of Canada. Sun Life Trust is a directly connected financial institution member of the Interac Association, Canada’s shared electronic payments network. Calypso Canada will be operated independently of Triton Systems. Triton Systems Inc. also recently acquired Calypso Systems, LLC from a group of private investors.

Details