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Fujitsu to Simplify Online Purchase Settlement

Last week, Fujitsu Ltd. announced that it intends to offer an integrated Internet shopping settlement service for members of its InfoWeb and NIFTY-Serve online services in Japan.

The new service, dubbed iREGi ("Internet + cash register"), is scheduled to commence on August 2.

Initially, iREGi service users will only be able to shop at some 80 online stores set up on the two Fujitsu sites. By March of next year, however, Fujitsu hopes to sign up at least 300 online stores, including those based on other ISP sites.

"We're looking into various possibilities," confirmed a Fujitsu spokesperson. "It's possible that other ISPs hosting similar online shopping malls could become a part of our iREGi system."

Sony's So-net Web site currently offers a similar, non-compatible purchase settlement service, dubbed Smash," with about 180 participating online stores.

Regarding competition between the two, the Fujitsu spokesperson explained that "iREGi doesn't directly compete with So-net's Smash. Rather, I'd call the two complementary. We think there's still a lot more room for growth in this business."

Members who have registered for the service will be able to purchase products from any iREGi-member shop by simply entering their user ID and password. Payment for such purchases will be charged to the same credit card used in customers' InfoWeb or NIFTY-Serve accounts.

By enabling members to make online purchases without the need to input their credit card information, the iREGi service addresses a prevalent concern among security-conscious Japanese consumers -- one that has so far retarded the growth of Internet shopping here.

In addition to this sense of security, iREGi will offer consumers transaction reliability (member shops will be screened) and convenience (payments will be made directly to InfoWeb or NIFTY-Serve, which will then settle with the merchant). iREGi will also allow users to confirm purchase details by e-mail and check their past year's purchase history via the Web.

Advantages for iREGi merchants include easy implementation (no special software is required), reliable service, and a reduction in the administrative cost and paperwork involved in setting up an online shop.

IREGi merchants need deal only with one Fujitsu subsidiary -- G-Search Ltd. for InfoWeb, or NIFTY Corp. for NIFTY-Serve -- rather than a variety of credit card companies.

"The merchant won't need to sign contracts with a lot of individual credit card companies," observed Fujitsu's spokesperson, "yet will be able to sell to holders of all the 26 varieties of credit cards that InfoWeb and NIFTY-Serve currently accept. Purchases will be charged to the credit card account that the buyer has listed with iREGi."

Fujitsu feels that the 3.3 million member user base of InfoWeb and NIFTY-Serve should also attract online merchants.

"You're looking at a large existing customer base -- over 600,000 members on InfoWeb and 2.7 million on NIFTY-Serve," said the spokesperson. "For a shop owner, that's a lot of possible customers just waiting at the doorstep."