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An Online British Invasion?

Web sites may soon see an invasion of British teenagers, as the United Kingdom finds a way to accommodate a $30 billion buying market with no access to credit cards.

U.K. law prohibits issuing credit cards to minors, making it difficult for British teenagers to buy online--but that's about to change. Splash Plastic Ltd., which plans to launch a prepaid Internet spending card aimed at British teenagers in January, has gotten an $8.7 million boost in first-round funding from GE Equity, Global Retail Partners, and Arts Alliance.

Splash Plastic says that as many as one in three teens will sign up for its card during the next two years, generating $1.8 billion in online spending. To reach them, the company plans to partner with conventional retailers to distribute 60,000 terminals for the rechargeable magnetic-stripe cards, though to date, deals to place 20,000 have been signed, marketing director Briand Beausoleil acknowledges. On Jan. 15, a $1.5 million marketing campaign will include binding a million Splash Plastic cards into magazines and handing them out at stores and schools, Beausoleil says.

While the launch will start on Splash Plastic's home turf, Beausoleil says the vision is to go pan-European and then take on the U.S. market.

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