EConnect Announces Venture in China

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Huaxia Bank, Shanghai, and Rieys Co. Ltd., a Shanghai-based manufacturer, have agreed to promote eConnect Inc.'s eCashpad devices to the Chinese market.

The devices will be aimed at online retail, brokerage, mortgage and gambling firms as well as consumers. However, dates for the product launch and promotional campaigns have not been disclosed.

ECashPads allow consumers to swipe ATM cards and "smart" cards when they make online purchases.

Alternately, by getting their customers to use the eCashPads, the devices allow online marketers to bypass transaction services, since user verification goes directly to the bank's settlement system as credit card/ATM purchases at a store do. Marketers that incorporate eCashPad's back-end system into their sites can decide how actively they promote the devices.

Companies will negotiate flat-fee transaction deals with eConnect. In addition, the merchant neither sees nor stores the consumer's financial information.

EConnect, San Pedro, CA, is banking on merchants and consumers being attracted to its "proof of possession" argument concerning transaction security for ATM cards. ECashPads require users to swipe their ATM cards and enter a personal identification number to make an online purchase, rather than keying in an ATM number as done with other bank card purchases via the Internet.

The devices cost $59. The company said it did not know what the price would be in Chinese currency.

Frederic Biddle, spokesman for eConnect, said his company would also target European, North American and South American markets sometime this year. Europe has been quicker to adapt to smart cards than the United States has been, he said, making that market attractive for his company's product.

Smart cards have a computer chip that reacts to software, enabling them to serve multiple functions, such as acting as several credit/ATM cards and a driver's license at the same time.

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