RealTime IT News

Spain Adopts SET Certification System

Spanish commerce has taken a united leap across electronic trade barriers with a consolidated digital certification system that promises secure virtual trade "at the world level."

Spanish banks began issuing digital certificates from the Agencia de Certificacion Electronica (ACE) last week, making the company among the first in the world to unite national electronic payment entities under the international Secure Electronic Transactions (SET) standard.

With the security of face-to-face transactions, virtual merchants can now verify the validity of a credit card and online consumers will know that a merchant is certified by Visa, Mastercard, American Express or other viable credit entities.

"We're now the only Spanish entity with the authorization to issue SET certificates," said Juan Jose Villa-Real, ACE's adjunct director of service development. "For the time being we don't foresee any other certification authority using SET, at least not in Spain."

Backed by Spain's primary payment institutions, ACE now issues guaranteed certificates--linked directly to credit cards--which businesses and consumers can use regardless of their chosen financial entity. ACE acts as the Trusted Third Party and its certificates work with Netscape or Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers.

Electronic commerce in Spain has yielded more than 20 million dollars in sales this year and the adoption of the SET standard is heralded as a major step toward rapid growth in online trade.

"I don't know to what point it's correct to talk about [advances in] electronic commerce only in Spain," said Villa-Real. "With a SET certificate, I can buy from any shop in the world."

At present only 14 entities worldwide have authorization by Visa International to issue SET certificates. Mastercard International has authorized 20 entities to do so.

ACE is a private company formed in May of 1997. Its principal shareholder is Grupo Telefonica, with 40 percent control, followed by Sistema 4B S.A., the Confederacin Espanola de Cajas de Ahorros (CECA), and Servicios para Medios de Pago, S.A. (SERMEPA), each with 20 percent.