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Mark Twain lowers Ecash user charges

Although Mark Twain Bank is dropping the rates it charges customers to use digital cash for online commerce, analysts say it may not make a difference.

Mark Twain Bank lowered the rates it charges consumers to use the company's system for conducting secure cash transactions on the Internet, but some analysts are doubtful the move will spark a dramatic increase in online transactions.

Mark Twain's revamped rate structure makes it less expensive to establish and maintain an Ecash account. It also makes the system easier for consumers and merchants to understand what--and how much--they're paying for the convenience of digital currency.

"Ecash represents the future of money, and we want to make it available to all Internet users," said Frank Trotter, Mark Twain Ecash project director. He said the bank elected to "reward users for their acceptance of Ecash."

But some industry analysts aren't sure lower rates will get cash transactions flowing across the Internet.

"Getting consumers to use digital currency doesn't have much to do with rates," said Jerry Michalski, managing editor of Release 1.0, a publication that follows emerging technologies.

"There's still a lot of friction involved in using these systems," said Michalski. "You're forced to remember passwords, type in all sorts of information, shipping addresses, codes. It's a lot of work." Michalski said simplifying the actual online buying process will result in a greater, more rapid acceptance of electronic commerce.

Mark Twain's Ecash system is based on software from DigiCash of Amsterdam under a nonexclusive licensing agreement. DigiCash was founded by encryption and privacy guru Dr. David Chaum, a former professor at New York University's Graduate School of Business. Chaum holds many of the patents experts believe will make anonymous electronic cash transactions a reality for the Internet community.

Mark Twain began offering Ecash in early November 1995. A number of retailers accept Ecash transactions, and the company expects that number to grow rapidly over the next few months.

Mark Twain's Frank Trotter said more than 75 companies are lined up to accept Ecash as a form of payment once retailers develop their own internal "shopping paradigms." The bank says it has established roughly 1,000 Ecash accounts.