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MasterCard, Visa say SET on time

MasterCard announces three cross-border transactions in Europe using the Secure Electronic Transactions protocol it is developing with Visa.

Disputing reports that the secure credit card protocol for the Internet is being delayed, MasterCard today announced three cross-border transactions in Europe using the Secure Electronic Transactions (SET) protocol it is developing with Visa International.

The three purchases, billed as the first cross-border SET transactions, took place using Eurocard-MasterCard cards and IBM's (IBM) Net.Commerce software, which complies with the latest published draft of SET.

Meanwhile, both Visa and MasterCard disputed a NEWS.COM story last week that claimed another delay in finalizing SET. The card companies said the story misinterpreted separate deadlines. April 14 was the deadline for proposing changes to the specification, but the publication date for the 1.0 version of SET has always been June 1.

MasterCard's Steve Mott, senior vice president of electronic commerce, said more than 3,000 suggested changes have been submitted. The two card associations and their technology advisers are now deciding which proposals to include in the June 1 spec, which to consider for later versions, and which to reject.

The international transactions in Europe, yet another sign that other regions are much farther along in SET trials than the United States, involved the heads of MasterCard's Europay affiliates in Norway and Denmark purchasing a book and plane tickets off the Net.

Because of security concerns about stolen credit card numbers, Visa and MasterCard both have advised cardholders not to send their card numbers over the Internet, although many commercial Web sites accept credit card payments using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) security. Visa and MasterCard want SET because, in part, it protects not only against hackers stealing credit data but also against dishonest merchants who could misuse customer card numbers.

After the initial version of SET is finalized and tested, the global card giants, including SET backer American Express, are expected to charge merchants less for credit card purchases made over the Net.

In addition to its European SET trials, MasterCard has announced pilots in South Africa, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Japan, where Fuji Bank already has 10,000 cardholders participating. MasterCard spokesman Ed Dixon said that Japanese trial is expected to balloon to 100,000 users by year's end. MasterCard also has a chip card trial in France using a smart card version of SET.

Visa also has announced trials around the globe, including Europe, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan.

In the United States, Wells Fargo Bank is testing the SET protocol between its Internet merchants and the bank, but consumers are still not using SET in those transactions. MasterCard has announced a U.S. deal with ISP Concentric Networks to distribute consumer "wallet" software and digital certificates needed for SET pilots.