The Federal Communications Commission charged telecommunications giant AT&T with switching wireless prepaid customers to monthly data plans, despite telling those customers that they could keep their pay-as-you-go plans. AT&T agreed to pay $700,000 to the U.S. Department of the Treasury and refund customers who paid for monthly data plans, which could be as much as $25 to $30 per month, the FCC said.
The FCC reported that AT&T made monthly plans mandatory in September 2009 for first-time AT&T users and for AT&T subscribers who upgraded phones. But AT&T smart phone users with prepaid plans who kept their old phones had the option to keep their pay-as-you-go data plans. "Some consumers who replaced these phones under warranty or insurance, or who moved to a new residence were switched to the monthly plans, even though AT&T had said the 'grandfathering' policy would continue to apply in these situations," the FCC stated.
The Ohio State Senate has undertaken a bill designed to require the Ohio Department of Taxation to offer its taxpayers the option of receiving income tax refunds on prepaid cards. Currently, Ohio residents can receive refunds by paper check or electronically via direct deposit to bank accounts. The bill, S.B. 365, would direct Ohio's tax commissioner to add the tax refund card option.
Ohio State Senator Eric H. Kearney, D-Cincinnati, introduced the bill in August 2012. "This prepaid debit card program will benefit those citizens that do not have a bank account for direct deposit, or for those who wish to avoid the hassle with paper checks and check cashing fees,” Kearney said.
A trend toward prepaid calling services is apparently taking hold internationally. A report by Voxofon LLC, a Houston-based international voice and messaging services provider, said a large percentage of international subscription plan users who try prepaid calling solutions abandon their subscriptions in favor of prepaid.
"For users who once called abroad with subscription plans from their mobile/landline providers 'at least several times a month,' 43 percent stopped using the plans altogether once they were introduced to easier, prepaid solutions like Skype and Voxofon," the provider said.
Additionally, Voxofon reported that 89 percent of subscription users decreased their usage of the plans after they were introduced to prepaid calling options.
Safeway Inc. subsidiary and prepaid card distributor Blackhawk Network launched its PayPower reloadable prepaid cards at Safeway locations in Canada. PayPower is a Visa Inc.-branded card issued by All Trans Financial Services Credit Union Ltd. and managed by Blackhawk Network (Canada) Ltd.
In the 2011 Underbanked Market Sizing Study, the Center for Financial Services Innovation and Core Innovation Capital estimated the market of financial products for the underbanked was $78 billion in 2011, a 7 percent increase from 2010. The analysts said revenue in this market consisted of an overall market volume of $682 billion in principal loaned, funds transacted, deposits held and other financial services rendered.
Gift and loyalty card provider Electronic Commerce International said it is now offering Paycloud, the mobile app developed by rewards and stored-value network operator SparkBase. Paycloud eliminates the need for customers to use physical gift and loyalty cards at the POS and renders POS systems contactless without the necessity of upgrades.
Euronet Worldwide Inc.'s prepaid card division, epay, launched the epay Gift Card Center, which showcases the closed-loop gift cards of over two dozen national, brand-name retailers. The center is being made available to merchants in advance of the 2012 holiday season.
Rovio Entertainment, creators of the popular Angry Birds mobile app and franchise, chose prepaid card program manager Kaiku Finance LLC to manage the Angry Birds prepaid card program in the United States. Rovio said the Angry Birds app has been downloaded over 1 billion times and is the fastest growing consumer brand and the most downloaded game of all time.
Free-to-play online game developer Nexon Corp. said it will expand its Karma Koin prepaid card program to Mexico in late November 2012. Over 1,300 7-Eleven Stores Inc. and Best Buy Inc. locations in Mexico will carry the cards. Nexon donates a percentage of each Karma Koin transaction to charity.
Payroll card provider TFG Card Solutions Inc. inked a deal to supply the unbanked employees of the restaurant chain The Old Spaghetti Factory, owned by OSF International Inc., with Visa Inc.-branded payroll cards. Implementation of the paycard system is reportedly underway in the restaurant's 42 locations.
Brazilian financial institution Banco Bonsucesso and international prepaid program manager Rev Worldwide rolled out the MEO Card, called Brazil's first MasterCard Worldwide-branded general purpose reloadable prepaid card. A Bonsucesso executive said 40 percent of the economically active population in Brazil do not have access to financial services and 55 percent of Brazilian workers are paid in cash.
Visa and Chexar Networks Inc. launched a mobile prepaid remote deposit capture platform that enables Visa prepaid card users to deposit paper checks to reloadable Visa prepaid cards by scanning checks with smart phones. The network will be expanded to include the cardholders of Unirush LLC's RushCard, AccountNow Inc. and Plastyc Inc, and some FSV Payment Systems Inc. cardholders, later in 2012, the companies said.
The Western Union Co., ICICI Bank and MasterCard collaborated on the Western Union ICICI Bank Prepaid Card in India. The companies said the card can potentially elevate millions of underbanked individuals into India's financial mainstream.
Tampa, Fla.-based GPR card provider nFinanSe Inc. entered into an agreement to be acquired by AccountNow Inc., a San Ramon, Calif.-based GPR card provider in the direct-to-consumer sales channel. After the initial phase of the acquisition, expected to be completed by Nov. 30, 2012, nFinanSe will become a subsidiary of AccountNow.
Atlanta-based prepaid card distributor InComm hired Jeffrey Lewis as Vice President and General Manager of Financial Services and promoted Robert Skiba to Executive Vice President of Regulatory and Governmental Affairs. Lewis was formerly Director of Alternative Payments and Prepaid at Discover Financial Services. Skiba has been at InComm for nearly four years and serves as Vice Chairman of the Network Branded Prepaid Card Association. Santillo joins ēdo
Nashville, Tenn.-based social network services firm ēdo Interactive tapped Tony Santillo to the position of Executive Vice President of Product and Strategy. Santillio brings over 17 years of executive experience at companies like Capital One Financial Corp. and AOL Inc. to his new role of helping edo expand its product offerings and market presence.
BillMyParents Inc., the teen payment solutions brand of Socialwise Inc., appointed Brian Thompson to its board of directors. Thompson is Senior Vice President at financial services consultancy Equity Dynamics Inc.
GiftCards.com added Carlos Tribino as Chief Marketing Officer. Tribino is a 20-year marketing veteran and formerly the Vice President of Marketing at Viacom International Media Networks, where he managed marketing research and events for MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central in southern European markets.
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