That business happens to be mobile payments, which the start-up Square, founded by Twitter co-creator Jack Dorsey, popularized more than four years ago. But now Amazon, its tentacles stretching long and far into the deep recesses of the retail world, has announced Amazon Local Register, a mobile app that attaches to smart phones and tablets to let local businesses accept debit and credit card transactions.
"From clothing stores to contractors, food trucks to accountants, businesses and organizations using Amazon Local Register will enjoy industry-leading low rates, trusted and secure payment processing, and access to award-winning customer support," says Matt Swann, Vice President of Amazon Local Commerce, in a statement announcing the new card-reading service. "We understand that every penny and every minute counts, so we want to make accepting payments so easy and inexpensive that it no longer gets in the way of a business owner doing what they love - serving their customers and growing their business."
The device, which looks like a small, black, rectangular box that attaches to your smart phone or tablet, can be purchased for $10. Users can then download a free app to work with the device from the Amazon Appstore, the Apple App Store, or the Google Play store. Amazon says each customer's first $10 in transaction fees will be credited back to the merchant once the card reader is in use, "allowing customers to fully recoup the cost of the card reader."
Customers who sign up before Oct. 31 will pay 1.75 percent per card swipe through Jan. 1, 2016, while those who sign up after that date will pay 2.5 percent per swipe. Still, that's less than the 2.75 percent fee taken by Square for each transaction or the 2.7 percent fee taken by eBay's similar PayPal unit, Reuters reports.
Beginning Wednesday, the device ships from Amazon.com and will start being sold from Staples retail stores on Aug. 19.
Even with increased revenue, Amazon reported another quarterly loss last month, testament to Amazon's major investments in new enterprises, notes The Wall Street Journal. The online mega retailer in recent months has come under scrutiny, notably from its prolonged dispute with the book publisher Hachette. In what many view as Amazon's attempt to squeeze more revenue from book sales, it has delayed delivery and raised prices on certain Hachette titles ordinarily available on its website.
Amid this seeming David-and-Goliath stand-off, a series of well-known writers have publicly entered the fray. Last Sunday an open letter penned by author Douglas Preston, and backed by industry-leading names like John Grisham and Stephen King, ran as a full-page ad in The New York Times urging readers to contact Amazon to plea that the company cease its heavy-handed tactics that could hurt writers' livelihoods.
Last month, Amazon fielded a lawsuit from US regulators who are demanding that Amazon refund customers who unknowingly accrued large bills from in-app purchases made on apps downloaded from the Amazon App Store. Specifically, the lawsuit centers around parents whose children spent money on mobile games such as "Tap Zoo" and "Ice Age Village," leaving their parents to pay the hefty prices for games that are often marketed as "free."
More recently, Amazon halted pre-orders of Disney movies such as "Maleficent" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" in what looks to be a similar contract dispute to that with Hachette.