PayPal Acquires Xoom


PayPal Fined $25 Million For Bogus Credit SignupsPayPal is bolstering their entry into the international money transfer market by acquiring one of the largest companies in the industry.

On Tuesday, the mobile payments company announced a deal that would see them acquire Xoom Corporation for an estimated $890 million.

The deal gives PayPal a digital money transfer company that boasts of having 1.3 million active users who transferred and sent close to $7 billion in the last year.

PayPal’s president, Dan Schulman, said of the deal:  “Expanding into international money transfer and remittances aligns with our strategic vision to democratize the movement and management of money. Acquiring Xoom allows PayPal to offer a broader range of services to our global customer base, increase customer engagement and enter an important and growing adjacent marketplace. Xoom’s presence in 37 countries – in particular, Mexico, India, the Philippines, China and Brazil – will help us accelerate our expansion in these important markets.”

Xoom is slated to operate as a separate service under PayPal, with the parent company taking full advantage of Xoom’s innovations in digital money lending.

In turn, Xoom will have the benefit of having access to a larger customer base that PayPal already has, which is approximately 68 million.

Christopher A. Smith


PayPal Modifies Their Controversial New Robocall Policy


PayPal Fined $25 Million For Bogus Credit SignupsThe upcoming robocall policy addition to the terms and services of PayPal that has many up in arms as reported here earlier, will get some modifications.

The mobile payments company received a huge backlash when it announced changes to the user agreement that would allow users to be bombarded with pre-recorded phone calls and text messages by PayPal.

The move concern that PayPal would use these changes to pester customers with unwanted ad solicitations, and it drew some notice from the FCC.

The company is now making some modifications to the language of the policy to give more clarity to what it is they’re trying to do with these automated phone calls to customers.

PayPal now states that the calls are essentially tools to help prevent fraud, make users aware of their account activity in full and to collect on outstanding balances.

In a statement addressing the situation, FCC spokesman Travis LeBlanc said: “These changes, along with PayPal’s commitments to improve its disclosures and make it easier for consumers to express their calling preferences, are significant and welcome improvements.”

PayPal also stated that they are continuing to work closely with regulators in the interest of consumer protection.

The new policy is set to take effect on July 1st, and users can still opt out of receiving the calls.

Christopher A. Smith


Alibaba Launches Lending Division


Alibaba Exploring Facial Recognition To Replace PasswordsThe Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is staking their claim to a piece of the growing lending market.

The company’s finance affiliate has launched MYbank, a new online lender.

Lucy Peng, CEO of Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group, said in a statement on Thursday that MYbank “has a goal of servicing 10 million small and medium enterprises and hundreds of millions of consumers in five years.”

Peng went on to say that instead of using technology from Oracle and other companies like other lenders do, they will work solely the native cloud computing systems of Alibaba.

MYbank will make loans totalling 5 million yuan, or $805,000 to these borrowers.

It puts them in direct competition with WeBank, an online lender firm launched in April by Tencent Holdings Ltd.

MyBank plans to offer these loans at lower rates than WeBank as well as look into working with China Postal Savings Bank and China Construction Bank, both run by the state as it waits for regulatory approval by government financial officials.

Christopher A. Smith


Amazon Will Pay Some Authors By Pages Read Instead Of Downloads


Amazon Will Pay Some Authors By Pages Read Instead Of DownloadsThe online retail company Amazon’s recent decision to pay authors by the amount of pages of their books being read instead of downloads may contain a ripple effect throughout the publishing and tech industries down the line.

The new policy will go into effect next month.

Amazon’s previous method of paying authors who publish using their services was to set aside a pool of money and split it all up among these authors.

They used an algorithm to measure the number of “borrows”, or  downloads to aid in calculating exactly how much in royalties each author received.

The new system could be applied to those books and authors in the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Online Lending Library programs, which between the two have over 800,000 titles.

There is, however, some speculation as to how this will affect both larger publishers and smaller book presses as well as self-published authors.

For its part, Amazon’s public commentary on the new policy states that this will directly affect those books that are in the Kindle Select program which is distributed through their Kindle Direct Publishing program.

The pay-per-page model will definitely bring up a pertinent question for writers who not only utilize Amazon but who have had to adapt their writing style and output to keep in line with the new demands.

Could this lead to a rise in shorter novels?

Could there be those looking to put one over on Amazon and customers?

Only time will tell.

Christopher A. Smith


Amazon Has Updated The Way They Rank Reviews


Amazon Launches Free Lightweight Delivery ServiceOnline e-commerce giant Amazon has now updated their review system in an effort to help improve the ability of their customers to give more beneficial commentary on items.

Amazon is relying on a newer internal machine-driven learning system that will aid in giving more helpful updates to reviews posted on the American version on its site.

The hope is that in addition to more recent reviews getting prominent space at the top of search results for an item, that the system will prune out more of the bogus reviews that have been a slight irritant to Amazon over the years.

The latter is something that the company rarely mentions, but the change will no doubt limit those hassles.

The new system will also go a long way to help give more authentic ratings of items overall – previously, items got their ratings as an estimate based on all reviews listed for that particular item.

Christopher A. Smith


Etsy Crowdfunding Program Launched


Etsy Files For IPOEtsy, the online e-commerce giant dedicated to artisans, is getting into the crowdfunding business.

After taking the company public this past April, Etsy has begun to offer financial tools to aid artisans in their camp.

To that end, they’ve launched an initiative called “Fund On Etsy”.

The program helps sellers to raise money via Etsy’s website to obtain funding for making new products.

Etsy would collect an extra 20 cents for each posting in the program to go with their usual fee of 3.5 percent on every transaction.

A spokesperson for the Brooklyn, New York-based company said of the program: “Fund on Etsy fits in seamlessly with sellers’ business lifecycles, from ideation to product creation to financing to retail and even to wholesale.”

The company is honing in on a growing industry with the program, and has a large base of 20 million current buyers to work with.

Etsy also stands to gain from this program in the wake of revelations that a particular artisan who was making a six-figure income through the website was found to have outside help in manufacturing her goods.

Christopher A. Smith


Terrorists Are Exploring Bitcoin As A Funding Method


50,000 Bitcoins Up For Auction By The United States GovernmentAs technology advances and makes itself more pliable for everyday people, there is a greater risk that it also becomes that way for those with bad intentions.

And it looks to be that way with terrorists and their newfound love of bitcoins.

In a recent report, the United States Treasury Department has determined that terror groups may be looking to digital currency like Bitcoin to fund their activities.

The report went on to say: “Terrorist groups may use these new payment systems to transfer funds collected in the United States to terrorist groups and their supporters.”

This news comes as terror groups and their supporters find it tougher to acquire and transfer funds through banks as global financial bodies and governments in collaboration with the United States have made it tougher since the attacks on September 11th, 2001.

Bitcoins were mentioned as a possible source of funds in a blog post linked to the jihadist Islamic State group.

Another source of concern cited in the National Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment was the existence of people using social media and charitable funding methods online to fund these groups: “A number of online fundraisers explicitly advertise that collected funds are being used to purchase weapons and other equipment for extremist groups and post videos and photos verifying the receipt of donations by fighters.”

Christopher A. Smith


Here Comes Alibaba’s Streaming Video Service


Alibaba Exploring Facial Recognition To Replace PasswordsChina’s powerful e-commerce giant Alibaba is gearing up to make a brisk entry into the streaming video industry.

The company’s head of digital entertainment, Patrick Liu, announced on Sunday that they were planning to launch their own streaming video service inspired by others like Netflix within the next two months.

The service, named Tmall Box Office or TBO, will stream content purchased from China and other countries.

They will also produce and air their own programs.

Alibaba’s move pushes it into the fray of competition with other domestic streaming video companies like Baidu, Tencent Holdings and Youku Tudou – the latter of which has 16.5 % of its stake owned by Alibaba in a purchase made last year.

All of these companies are spending billions to compile enough content to attract customers.

However, TBO looks to have an edge embodied in the fact that thanks to monthly subscriptions or those based on show-to-show terms, 90 percent of their content is paid for.

The rest?

It will be available free of charge to users.

Alibaba’s goal “to become like Netflix in the United States” may also see some competition from Netflix itself, which is reportedly looking to make inroads into the Chinese market.

Christopher A. Smith


PayPal’s New Robocall Policy Now Under FCC Scrutiny


PayPal Fined $25 Million For Bogus Credit SignupsPayPal has caught a lot of flack concerning their impending policy where customers will receive robocalls without much option to get out of it, as we reported recently.

Now they are drawing some heavy observation from the government.

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday sent a letter to PayPal, expressing that they had “serious concerns” about the changes that the company looks to make regarding these robocalls.

Director Travis LeBlanc went on to further state that the changes could “violate federal laws governing the use of autodialed, prerecorded and artificial voice calls, including text messages.”

While it issued the letter and a sharp reminder of the rules, there was no request for information — which would have been telling as the beginning of a formal investigation.

That hasn’t stopped New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman from requesting information to begin his own investigative process.

For its part, PayPal issued a statement claiming that it had offered up clarification of the new policy changes, stating that it “had no intention of harassing you.”

They also said that they received the letter from the FCC and are looking forward to issuing a response to their concerns.

Christopher A. Smith


Square Launches New Credit Card Reader That Accepts Mobile Payments


Former Apple Engineer Designs New Card Reader For SquareA new product release by one of the main companies in the payment-processing industry looks to make mobile wallets much more easier for users to navigate.

On Monday, Square released information about a new credit card reader that will take mobile payments like those made via Apple Pay and the newly-launched Android Pay, in addition to other methods.

The reader will cost $49 and be made fully available in the fall.

The new reader will operate wirelessly, enabling merchants to make that a form of payment in their businesses.

The readers are also equipped to take EMV-enabled cards and process payment.

Those cards contain a chip that is built in to provide extra security against theft.

As an additional incentive, the San-Francisco based company will also be giving away 250,000 of the new credit card readers to small and mid-sized businesses to encourage them to utilize this new form of payment.

This new product may be of a great help – the new EMV standard formed by the alliance of EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa is set to be implemented for all merchants later this year.

The upgrade can be a bit costly, and Square is looking to alleviate those headaches plus ensure a steady rise in customers who could possibly use the new reader in their business.

Christopher A. Smith