Consumers today have a bewildering number of choices when it comes to paying for goods and services. They can pay via cash, checks, credit cards, debit cards linked to bank accounts, general-use prepaid cards, gift cards, and mobile phones. Many of these payment methods — particularly prepaid cards and payments via mobile phone — are recent phenomena and do not fit cleanly into the existing legal categories used in consumer protection laws.
As mobile phones have become more ubiquitous, the marketplace has produced many ways to pay using these devices, including charges directly to mobile phone accounts. As these technologies and practices have developed, however, US laws have failed to catch up. This article recommends a few simple steps to harmonize existing laws and to ensure that all consumers making mobile payments have guaranteed consumer protections.
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This article was originally published in the Banking & Finance Law Review, 27 BFLR 213-343 (2012).