October 20, 2011, 9:37 AM

Britons’ security concerns may impede U.K. mobile wallets, study finds

A quarter of shoppers don’t even know why they’re concerned—but they are.

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Getting U.K. consumers to use mobile wallets may be difficult when many of them have security fears that they cannot put a finger on.

24% of U.K. adults say using their smartphone to pay for goods in stores “feels less secure but I’m not sure why,” according to a new study of 1,000 Britons by Intersperience, a research and consulting firm specializing in consumer behavior.

Overall, 44% of survey respondents say a lack of security software for smartphones will keep them from using a mobile wallet.

“Consumers are fearful because they are adjusting not just to a digital world but an increasingly mobile world,” says Intersperience CEO Paul Hudson. “There is a common perception that as your Internet link becomes untethered you are automatically less secure; that will impact the pace at which U.K. consumers will adopt mobile payment schemes.”

24% of respondents worry that their mobile phone is more likely to be stolen than their wallet. Only 17% say they want to use their mobile phone as a wallet in the future.

A mobile wallet is a smartphone-based account that connects to a consumer’s credit card or checking account and is used in stores to pay for merchandise. The early mobile wallet efforts, such as Google Inc.’s Google Wallet, rely on Near Field Communication, or NFC, technology in smartphones and payment terminals to wirelessly complete a transaction. But few retailers and only one smartphone to date have installed NFC technology.

The Intersperience study finds a marked rise in consumers’ security concerns when they access the Internet via their smartphones compared with using their PCs. This is true even though there have been far more reported instances of security breaches from PC transactions than smartphones, Intersperience says.

The study looked at consumers’ willingness to conduct transactions via PC and via mobile and found that while 11% would hesitate to make a purchase via PC, 37% would hesitate to use a mobile phone to buy something. 8% of adults use their mobile phones to buy goods, and 21% say they would like to engage in mobile commerce in the future.

“Today’s adults may be adopting a cautious stance on mobile payments,” Hudson says, “but we expect the next generation to take a bolder approach.”

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