01 February 2001 | David Arminas
Europay International, the name behind MasterCard, has started a pilot for its purchasing card in France as part of a Europe-wide launch by the end of the year.
"We are focusing on VAT certification specifically in the four markets of France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands," said Robin Mukherjee, senior manager for corporate products with Europay, a Belgium-based payments and support company for around 9,000 continental banks.
Government certification of the payment processes and banks can be very detailed, Mukherjee said.
The new card will be more web-based with real-time data than its competitors, according to Mukherjee.
Of the three main credit and charge card brands, Mastercard is the last to launch a procurement card. Its entry into the market has been anticipated for almost two years. But Peter Parry, director of Sterling Management Consultants and an expert on purchasing cards, said: "MasterCard will need a unique selling point as the market is pretty well sown up by Visa and Amex. It will need to be more acceptable to multinationals."
Cross-border buying with a purchasing card is not the real problem for multinationals, explained Parry. The main thing is to ensure a multinational's central financial system can understand purchasing information, including VAT, sent in from all its subsidiaries in each country.
These subsidiaries could be dealing with banks in their country that are not the same as the multinational's main bank and so information may not be entirely compatible. It's an area that is causing concern for multinationals considering greater uptake of a card, Parry added.
VAT is one of the critical areas of the purchase-to-billing aspect, the last link in seamless use of the purchasing card and key to their greater uptake, according to Paul Owen, business consultant at laboratory and scientific supplier Fisher.