The service, which is based on technology from German payment systems provider Firstgate Internet, will allow content providers to make new paid-for online services available to a wider consumer audience, according to Angus Porter, managing director of BT Retail's consumer division.
"Consumers want to be able to access good-quality content via the Internet and businesses need to be able to charge for that content," he said. "This service, which has been hugely successful in Germany, will enable content providers to operate cost-effective charging structures for premium content in a way that does not penalise them or their customers if they are making relatively low-value purchases."
BT Retail is currently in discussions with a number of content providers interested in signing up to the service, which is due to be launched in September 2002. These include sports news site Sportinglife.com, women's lifestyle site Handbag.com and music retailer Dotmusic.
Ben Warn, commercial director at Sportinglife.com, which is planning to begin trials of the service in July, said accepting micropayments - which are typically between 50p and £5 - could help the company open up a raft of new revenue streams.
"We have not got any chargeable content at the moment but the service will allow us to offer our users premium content, such as Premiership video clips or more detailed race previews," he said. "It is key that we open up new revenue streams and we will also be looking at paid-for games, for example."
How will it work?
The consumer will set up a free-of-charge account with the BT micropayments service, providing either their bank account or credit card details. They will then be given a user name and password, which they will be asked for each time they click on the BT micropayment symbol to pay for content on a Web site.
The micropayment billing system will handle the transaction processes and the payment will appear on the customer's online micropayment account statement.
This amount will then be debited from their bank or credit card account on a monthly basis. BT customers will eventually be able to charge their purchases to their monthly BT phone bill.
BT will collect payments from end-users on behalf of content providers, manage the billing and deal with consumer queries.