The National Retail Federation this week urged the Federal Trade Commission to move cautiously in establishing regulations for mobile payments, and said any rules that are adopted should parallel those for the underlying form of payment and not be specific to the technology.

"Mobile technology and processes are just beginning to emerge and we won't know which practices the public will like or what methods will provide new benefits until the technology begins to coalesce," NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory Duncan said. "The government should not impose regulations that would forestall yet-to-be-imagined advances and innovation in order to avoid potential 'harm' based largely on speculation."

"Some of the best innovations on the Internet today might have been suspect a generation ago but today they are benefits few consumers would want to live without," Duncan said. "The public very often embraces change as the 'future' becomes 'now.' Familiarity breeds content."

Duncan noted that a phone itself is "just a device, not a payment" and that actual payment could take place via a credit or debit card, directly from a bank account, be processed through the user's phone bill, or be made through other means. Any privacy rules developed for mobile payments should be no more restrictive than those for the underlying form of payment, he said.

"Retailers have always wanted to know their customers so they can serve them better and that doesn't change simply because the method of payment changes," Duncan said. "Mobile might help retailers get to know their customers more like they knew their customers generations ago, and offer more personalized service."

Duncan said federal officials need to address a number of issues including a definition of what constitutes a mobile payment. While the term is largely used to mean a payment made in a bricks-and-mortar store using a smartphone, officials need to decide whether a payment made for an online purchase on the same device constitutes a mobile payment, or if payments made on a portable device like an iPad tablet or a laptop computer are "mobile."

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