Visa U.S.A. and Trintech Group have joined forces to promote Internet payment acceptance by retailers and their transaction-acquiring banks.

Trintech, bidding aggressively for leadership in secure on-line transaction software, supplied its PayGate NetAcquirer system for Visa's Internet Payment Gateway offering.

The program is designed to ensure secure and rapid processing of card transactions on the World Wide Web. Visa said last week that it offers quick and easy merchant account setup, bank branding, and customization options.

"This is another important step toward securing the Visa payment system and supporting the tremendous Visa volume growth on the Internet," said Steve Ryan, the San Francisco-based card association's senior vice president of emerging technologies.

He said that member banks can find in Internet Payment Gateway a path to product differentiation and revenue growth and that they can use the system as "a launching pad for future products and services."

Seeking to promote electronic commerce in any form, the gateway service takes advantage of Trintech's ability to accommodate either the SSL or SET security protocol.

A couple of years ago, when the bank card industry pinned its hopes on SET (Secure Electronic Transaction) as superior to the older SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), Visa might have been more doctrinaire. But SET has not lived up to expectations, particularly in the United States, and Visa is more intent on making sure that transactions in either format meet basic security and integrity requirements.

Trintech, which was founded in Ireland in 1986 as a point of sale systems company and is now well-ensconced in the Silicon Valley area near San Jose, Calif., is building on a solid relationship with Visa.

Visa International owns an equity interest in Trintech, and the software company has worked with the card organization in several parts of the world, at times championing SET and smart cards. Trintech has obtained certification from SETCo, a joint venture of MasterCard and Visa, that its digital wallet, merchant, and payment-gateway software complies with SET requirements.

SETCo-formally Secure Electronic Transaction LLC-has kept active in an attempt to demonstrate momentum. It issued a public report in early May listing several tasks, including extensions to the SET 1.0 specification, that would promote an orderly evolution from SSL and that would more easily accommodate debit and smart cards.

SETCo also announced the formation of a Technology Advisors Group, consisting of leading card companies and developers that want to promote cross-system interoperability and other improvements.

"Cross-border Internet transactions are increasing at a significant rate," said Steve Herz, Visa International's senior vice president of electronic commerce. "It is absolutely imperative that we have interoperability nailed down now. As the explosive international growth continues, we'll see the work of SETCo and the vendor community begin to pay off."

Even as SET makes some progress, payment-promotion strategies for the Web have turned pragmatic.

Trintech chief executive officer and co-founder John McGuire said Internet Payment Gateway puts Visa "at the forefront of e-commerce payment innovation."

"The alliance combines Visa's e-business prominence with Trintech's powerful e-commerce solution to provide acquirers and merchants with a standards-based e-commerce package that satisfies the most demanding customers," Mr. McGuire added.

MasterCard International and its Europay affiliate announced SET breakthroughs with a debit twist. Conavi, a technologically progressive Colombian thrift institution, is planning to introduce Maestro debit transactions on the Internet this summer using the Secure Electronic Transaction protocol.

Conavi-Corporacion National de Ahorro y Vivienda-previously announced it would use the Trintech PayGate software. GTE Cybertrust is to issue MasterCard-branded digital certificates for SET compliance.

Customers will be able to download electronic wallets from Conavi's Web site for shopping, paying bills, and other functions, MasterCard said.

Working with Europay International, the Interpay association of the Netherlands began offering SET transactions June 1, with digital certificates issued by cardholder and merchant banks.

The Dutch banks call their service I-Pay with SET. Maestro International chairman Paul Ribourdouille said it is "the first payment infrastructure for the Internet that enables debit payments. This unique initiative will certainly be followed by other European countries." Eurocard-MasterCard credit cards are also accepted by participating merchants.

Willem Stolwijk, chairman of Interpay, said I-Pay with SET is "a breakthrough for electronic commerce in the Netherlands."

Chief executive officer Louis-Noel Joly of Europay, based in Waterloo, Belgium, said SET is worthy of support as "the only global standard for secure electronic payment over the Internet using our brands. We have worked closely with Interpay to enhance the protocol to carry chip and debit card data."

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