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Business deals

Japan to unify mobile payment codes, enlisting Chinese giants

Alibaba, Tencent and Line join hands in promoting standard QR reading

A customer makes a payment by scanning a QR code on her smartphone. (Photo by Kaoru Osawa)

TOKYO -- Line and Alibaba Group Holding are among five major internet businesses from Japan and China that will standardize QR codes that are scanned to make payments via smartphones in Japan, Nikkei has learned.

The others joining this undertaking are online flea market operator Mercari and mobile carrier NTT Docomo from Japan and Tencent Holdings' WeChat Pay from China.

Smartphone payments have grown in popularity, and there are many services available as information technology companies, banks, retailers and others have entered the market. There are more than 10 services in Japan alone. But each service uses its own QR code standard, so participating merchants need to install payment apps or readers separately for each service.

Japanese systems developer Digital Garage created a QR code that can be used across various services. Docomo will begin using it this summer, while the others are expected to do so this year. Plans call for increasing the number of participants.

Stores in Japan that have signed up for Digital Garage's payment platform will display a QR code on smartphones or tablets, or it can be printed out on paper. When consumers read this code on their smartphones, the service is automatically determined and the payment is made.

While companies have begun to work together on smartphone payments, this would be one of the biggest collaboration efforts so far. Japanese telecommunications carrier KDDI has partnered separately with Mercari and Rakuten on payments. Line and Mercari will allow users to make payments at each other's affiliated stores starting this summer.

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