Thursday, December 27, 2007

In the name of the backbone, the router and the cyber-money…

CNN reports that the Catholic Church has started to collect online the normal mass giving, although the Church has clarified that this new way would not replace the old collection basket during the mass. It seems a sensible move to use new technologies to carry out old activities, but the use of Internet changes a couple of things that may not be very clear to the church goers that now interact with their religious bodies in Cyberspace. While it is expected that by changing the way the money is collected would not affect the charitable status of the church and should not change is nature for tax purposes, unless the church uses its own payment sites and some form of payment that does not involve fees, that fact is that an important part of the donation will go to pay different type of fees. The news piece refers to online collections fees of about 2.5-4%, but there are also fees associated with using your debit card, if that is the case (yes, for the surprised Europeans, in the US banks charge you to give you your money and if you use a different bank ATM you normally have to pay twice the same fee, and buying is “like” withdrawing money). And what happens if there is a mistake? Do you have a contract with the “vendor”? Quite obviously not (you do remember the issue of consideration in common law countries), so how do you claim? Through your credit card company…and they? Who do they claim? If they don’t have a clear person to make a claim to they just get it from the insurance, but again, if there is no identified person that is in some form responsible for a mistake (legally responsible) the insurance premiums may go up and then, you know who ends footing the bill…it still seem an interesting development, but the inclusion of purely commercial interests in an activity that represents the purest form of altruism within an spiritual setting as religion seems to add quite a complication…will this also give more ammunition to the EU commission?

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