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How To Accept Online Payments & the Best Gateway Payment

Author Osome Content TeamOsome Content Team

18 min read
Money Talk

Discover how to optimize online payment methods for your ecommerce business in the UK, and explore the best gateway payment options, to act as the middleman between buyer and seller, and securely process your business’s online transactions.

How To Accept Online Payments & the Best Gateway Payment

There are various methods for online sellers and ecommerce merchants to take online payments - whether via credit card or other e-processing means. Let’s explore some of the best gateway payment options so you can find a fit for your ecommerce business.

Optimising your online payment method is just one of the many factors you can experiment with to increase sales when growing your ecommerce business in the United Kingdom (UK). So if you don’t want to spend time on boring and routine paperwork, why not turn to our ecommerce accountants?

How To Choose an Online Payment Processing Method Best For Your Business

Payment gateways or merchant accounts are those that offer ecommerce payment processing solutions that allow you to take online payments.

A payment gateway is the technology behind processing payments online, acting as the middleman between buyer and seller. Payment gateways encrypt sensitive card details, ensure funds are available in the customer’s bank, and allow merchants to take online payments securely. Some of the best gateway payment options in the United Kingdom include WorldPay, Amazon Pay, and Stripe.

A merchant account, on the other hand, is set up by banks offering online payment processing solutions. They help you accept online payments via credit card payments from your customers. Many merchant accounts are also payment gateways. In the UK, banks like Barclay’s (Barclaycard) and Lloyds (Cardnet) offer merchant accounts to online sellers.

Tips for choosing payment gateways vs merchant accounts:

  1. Be wary of tiered pricing: Some payment gateways charge different rates and fees for different card types. Tiered pricing is usually the most expensive and ambiguous option for online sellers or merchants.
  2. Confirm the monthly fee rate: While you might be sold on the low per transaction fee, the payment gateway or merchant account’s monthly fees might be high.
  3. Figure in setup time and fees: There is an approval process if you opt for a traditional merchant account which takes longer compared to other payment gateways, (especially for new business owners).
  4. Read the fine print: Some payment solution service providers have contractual clauses that may require you to engage them for at least a year, or meet minimum monthly transactions to remain eligible for service.
  5. Verify compatibility: Confirm that the service providers’ plugins, software, etc. are compatible with your website or online store.

7 Ways To Accept Ecommerce Payments in the UK

  1. Debit, Credit and Prepaid Cards

37% of online shoppers used credit or debit cards for their online purchases, according to this 2019 survey. Considering the impact of Covid on our shopping behaviours and retailer accessibility, it is no surprise that number keeps rising.

Statistics show the second most popular online payment method is the use of debit and credit cards. This means that you’d capture more than a third of British online shoppers, so it makes sense to feature that as an option for them on your mobile store.

Pros Of Accepting Online Card Payments Cons Of Accepting Card Online Payments
  • Everyone has one. Nowadays, more people pay by card rather than cash, and online payment gateways have made it easy for merchants to accept credit and debit card payments.
  • Speed and convenience for customers. Credit and debit card payments are processed quickly, especially if an online shopper has saved his card information on a website.
  • Access to more customers. Card payments give you a competitive edge. Accepting credit cards like Visa and Mastercard, for example, also gives you access to international buyers.
  • More costs. For an online seller, the fees of accepting card payments can get costly. Most payment gateways charge setup fees, transaction and processing fees, and monthly fees.
  • Extra bookkeeping. You need to keep track of your paying your merchant account or payment gateways monthly or yearly, and keep a record of all your transactions and invoices. For this, you can outsource your bookkeeping tasks to service providers like Osome. Drop us a chat to find out more!
  • Security and fraud risk. As payment gateways operate over the internet, there is the ever-present risk of breach of card details, however minimal. Physical cards might also be lost or stolen.
  • Chargebacks. You may be charged a chargeback fee when a customer disputes a purchase and your card processor issues a refund for him.

Credit and Debit Card

Both Visa and MasterCard mainly earn from service and data processing fees. However, they classify these fees differently and have distinct fee structures. Service fees are based on card volume and charged to the issuing bank. For data processing fees, Visa and MasterCard also charge them to the issuer, who passes them on to merchants who collect a per-transaction fee when they accept online payments. These are the fees charged for the sharing of transactional information over Visa and MasterCard’s networks with merchants.

While Visa may surpass MasterCard in terms of transactions, purchase volume and cards in circulation, both are almost always accepted together among ecommerce merchants internationally, allowing online stores to take payments via both with ease.

Some of the popular banks and accounts that issue debit cards in the UK are the Santander Everyday Current Account, Starling Bank Current Account, HSBC Bank Account, Barclays Bank Account, Royal Bank of Scotland Select Account, Natwest Select Account, and First Direct 1st Account.

Prepaid Cards

Prepaid cards, cash cards, prepaid “credit” or debit cards are all examples that mean the same thing. These are reloadable money cards you would top-up, much like pay-as-you-go mobile phone plans. They are usually for people who are budgeting or learning to budget, e.g. those with bad credit scores, students, and children. They can also be used by online merchants as a way to accept payments online but keep in mind there are monthly transaction fees and ATM withdrawal fees. These cards can be used both in-store, and for ecommerce online payments (but booking a hotel, flight, car hire is usually not accepted by using a prepaid card).

Examples of prepaid cards are thinkmoney Prepaid Card, Cashplus plus prepaid MasterCard (Deluxe), Pockit Prepaid Card, Rooster Money Prepaid Card for Parents and Kids, and Suits Me Premium Card.

  1. Digital and Mobile Wallets

A mobile, digital or e-wallet is a virtual wallet where users store, send, and receive money and pay for purchases online.

Pros Of Accepting Digital Wallets For Online Merchant Payments Cons Of Accepting Digital Wallets For Online Merchant Payments
  • Smooth payment process. Digital or mobile wallets reduce friction and cart abandonment. They increase conversion rates among your customers as payment details are already stored in their wallets. It is usually a one-click payment button without additional forms and verifications to fill out.
  • Security for merchants and consumers. Access to digital wallets are linked to users’ devices, which are locked by biometrics and security codes. Merchants and consumers alike trust digital wallets providers as they provide support and resolution for purchase disputes or conflicts.
  • Responding to customers’ preferences. Customer behaviour shows a trend of increasing adoption of mobile and e-wallets use.
  • A high degree of localisation. There are many e-wallets currently in the world. Merchants need to accept the e-wallet most used by their target market.
  • Multiple integrations. Integrating new systems of payment within an existing website or store systems might be challenging and time-consuming for a merchant. Merchants could consider service providers offering all-in-one API solutions that integrate with many different mobile and digital wallets.
  • Service downtimes. Online payment services and digital wallets might face in-app technical glitches or network delays.

Top Digital And Mobile Wallets Used In The United Kingdom

  • PayPal. The top digital wallet in the UK. It’s free to open an account and pay for an online purchase (excluding currency conversions). Merchants who choose to accept online payments with PayPal allow customers access to credit and debit cards, PayPal, Pay in 3, PayPal Credit or local payment methods. PayPal can also be used to accept recurring online payments or subscriptions, and send invoices.
  • Google Pay. Offering the same capabilities as a digital wallet, with Google Pay one can send and receive money and store debit or credit card information for online or in-store purchases. There are no merchant fees for accepting payments online but some in-store card networks may issue a fee. Your ecommerce platform needs the Google API and a Google Pay-compatible gateway like 3dcart, Adyen, Stripe, Worldpay, BigCommerce, Shopify and WooCommerce.
  • Amazon Pay. Another way to facilitate customers' payments without them entering their credit card information. It is especially convenient for Amazon users. Merchants are charged a percentage of transactional costs based on turnover, and merchants are charged a cross-border fee of 0.4% - 1.5% if payment is made via a debit or credit card issued outside of the UK.
  1. Bank Debits

Bank debits are another way to take online payments. In this case, the amount spent by a customer is deducted from their bank account directly to yours. Customers give their bank account information for a merchant to deduct automatically from the customers’ bank accounts at a specific time weekly, monthly, yearly, etc. Merchants or online sellers usually send a confirmation message or email to customers of the amount deducted at the time the online payment is accepted, even though customers have pre-authorised the debits.

As a method to accept payments online, direct debits are generally best suited to subscriptions like memberships or software, recurring payments like bills, instalment payments and rent collection.

Pros Of Direct Debit Online Payment Option Cons Of Direct Debit Payment Online Option
  • On-time billing. Businesses or service providers get paid on time without the need to chase after payments or track invoices.
  • Convenient for customers. Customers can 'set and forget' recurring payments without the fear of incurring late payment fees.
  • Less admin work. Businesses gain an average of one administration day per week when they switch to direct billing.
  • Lack of global standards. There are different rules and regulations for direct debits in different regions and countries. Merchants opting for this payment method should be familiar with them.
  • Longer settlement period. Pulling money from a customer’s account takes more time than if they were pushing them out to merchants. You would get paid up in about 5 days.
  • Risk of getting an 'insufficient funds' notification after the settlement period.

In the UK, the most prominent direct debit online payment method is Bankers Automated Clearing Services (Bacs). Retail payments authority Pay.UK owns and operates Bacs since 2018. Bacs is used to pay wages, salaries, pensions, state benefits, employee expenses, tax credits, insurance settlements, and set a regular date for payments. It is also a cost-effective way to make payments.

Besides Bacs, bank debits could also be made by CHAPS and Faster Payments. CHAPS transfers are settled on the same day compared to 3 working days for Bacs. CHAPS is usually used for high-value online payment transactions like buying a car or property. Faster Payments are mainly used for small-value payments, and payments are credited almost immediately. Faster Payments can be used for bills, supplier invoices and online transfers between bank accounts in the UK

  1. Bank Redirects

Bank redirects are ecommerce payment gateways that have an additional step of verification to complete a bank debit payment. At checkout, instead of entering bank account information directly, users are redirected to their online banking or payment gateway login page to authorise the payment. These are some of the main types of bank redirects and best online payment gateway examples:

  • Hosted Online Payment Gateways. PayPal is a good example of a hosted payment gateway. With this approach, customers are directed away from your website’s checkout page to the Payment Service Provider’s (PSP) page, where they confirm their payment details. When the purchase is paid, they’re redirected back to your website.
Pros of Hosted Payment Gateways Cons of Hosted Payment Gateways
Secure, simple, and easy-to-setup. Transactions are Payment Card Industry (PCI)-compliant and protected against fraud. Merchants do not have control over the whole user experience as hosted ecommerce payment gateways are external operators.
  • Self-hosted Online Payment Gateways. Payments are made on the merchants’ websites themselves. Customers enter payment details which are collected and sent to the payment gateway’s URL. Examples of self-hosted ecommerce payment gateways are Stripe-powered Shopify Payments and Quickbooks Commerce B2B Payments.
Pros of Self-hosted Online Payment Gateways Cons of Self-hosted Online Payment Gateways
Merchants control the whole payment experience as all steps of the transactions are completed on the same website. If you are operating the website on your own, you would need to have some technical know-how if hiccups occur in the payment system. This is because technical support may not always be available or it may be a service you’d need to hire when it comes to your website’s self-hosted payment gateway.
  • API-hosted Payment Gateways. Payments are processed using an Application Programming Interface (API) or HTTPS queries after customers enter their credit or debit card information directly on checkout so merchants can take online payments. Stripe API and Square API are examples of API-hosted payment gateways.

Top Bank Redirects Used In The United Kingdom:

  • PayPal: One of the most technologically advanced payment gateways, PayPal boasts a base of 377 million+ active users and merchants. PayPal-commissioned Nielsen research reported that PayPal customers convert up to 2.8x more when shopping with merchants who offer PayPal as a payment option. Trust and security precede the reputation of this established payment solution.
  • Opayo: Opayo (previously Sage Pay) is the payment processor for EasyJet, Europcar, Krispy Kreme, Murco Petroleum and the tech behind the BBC's Children In Need donation app. Operating in the UK and Ireland, you can integrate Opayo’s payment processing system on your website or online store in any of these 3 ways: Opayo Form (payment on Opayo’s payment page), Opayo Server (payment integrated in your own page), and Opayo Direct (develop your own payment process with Opayo’s technology).
  1. Buy Now, Pay Later

Buy now, pay later (BNPL) is a buying on credit payment option for merchants to accept online payments as well as payments from in-store foot traffic. Payments are split into instalments, usually interest-free unless not paid on time. Where previously the BNPL model was more commonly offered for big-ticket purchases, nowadays retailers are offering this credit payment option for small purchases like cosmetics and apparel too.

Pros of Buy Now, Pay Later Online Payment option: Cons of Buy Now, Pay Later Online Payment option:
  • Access to a wider range of audiences. By offering instalments, buying expensive items are more affordable, especially for the younger demographic.
  • Correspondingly, as a merchant, the average order value increases. Studie show that retailers who partner with BNPL providers saw an increase in both average order value and purchase frequency.
  • Higher fees for customers and merchants. Compared to other payment methods, BNPL systems incur higher fees, generally 2-6% of the amount purchased.
  • BNPL encourages consumer debt. Buy now, pay later encourages consumers to buy more than they can afford, which usually means they do not have the actual means to repay the loans or instalments. Debt affects your shoppers financially, mentally and emotionally.

Top BNPL Providers In The United Kingdom

  • Klarna: UK online shoppers have the following payment options with Klarna: Three interest-free instalments, in 30 days, or up to 36 months. The good news for ecommerce businesses accepting online payment through a BNPL provider is that you are always paid in full and upfront.
  • Clearpay: The Buy Now Pay Later method has seen Clearpay retailers experience an average increase of 20% in cart conversion and 40% in average order value. Customers need to pay a quarter of the purchase price upfront, and the rest in 3 instalments over 6 weeks. Merchants accepting this online payment method will see money in the bank in just days of the purchase.
  1. Cash-Based Vouchers

Another way to accept payment online is through cash-based vouchers, or e-gift cards. Retailers like Argos, ASOS, Asda, Primark, Sainsbury’s, M&S and John Lewis accept e-gift cards. E-gift cards are used like regular gift cards, but the recipient would receive a digital card with a code through their email address rather than a physical card. They could then purchase items online using that unique e-gift code.

Pros Of e-Gift Cards Cons Of e-Gift Cards
  • Payment. Voucher providers or merchants who issue cards would have received payment regardless whether the recipient uses the e-gift card or not.
  • Cross-selling. Customers would usually shop more than the price of the e-gift cards.
  • Customer service & reputation management. Exchanges and returns could be more complicated with e-gift cards.
  • Fees. Merchants may be charged additional fees by their ecommerce or shopping cart platform providers by issuing e-gift cards.

Top E-gift Card Payment Option In The United Kingdom

  • Love2shop: Accepted at 100+ major retailers and with over 20,000 stores across the UK, Love2Shop is one of the top multi-retailer gift voucher and prepaid gift card issuers. There are 4 different types of vouchers available for customers to purchase and recipients to spend any retailer of their choice. These include: Love2shop voucher, Love2shop gift card, Love2shop e-gift card and the Love2shop contactless card.
  1. Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies are digital tokens, not physical coins or cash. It is a decentralised digital currency, with no central authority or government regulating it. Cryptocurrencies are encrypted and secure, and run on peer-to-peer blockchain technology and could be used to buy goods and services or even traded as a way to “take online payments”. There is no standard value for cryptocurrencies and the price is set by the market’s demand and supply.

Pros Of Accepting Cryptocurrency Online Payments Cons Of Accepting Cryptocurrency Online Payments
  • Increases conversion rate and user engagement. There’s currently an estimated billion crypto users worldwide and 15,000+ businesses already accept cryptocurrency payments. With those figures on the rise, why wouldn’t you want to give your customers more options and more appeal for online payments?
  • Eliminating banks and service providers reduces transaction fees for merchants and customers.
  • Secure and fast transactions. Payments are received immediately unlike processing time of traditional banks. Blockchain technology tracks each individual coin and wallet, eliminating fraud possibilities and limiting chargebacks.
  • Price volatility. Cryptocurrencies prices fluctuate in value, so try not to hold cryptocurrencies for your business as it could cost you as a speculative investment. Instead, consider immediately converting digital currency - using BitPay or Coinbase - to its value in cash as payments are made.
  • Security. There are cases of crypto assets being stolen by cybercriminals, so regularly backup your data, keep your private keys safe, and turn on multi factor authentication when logging onto your digital wallets.
  • Regulatory uncertainty. There is no universal law governing cryptocurrency and many countries are coming up with reporting, and taxation regulations and requirements regarding cryptocurrency.

Top Cryptocurrency Payment Gateways In The United Kingdom

  • CoinPayments: This is an all-in-one digital currency payment solution that handles cryptocurrency payments and transactions, offfers a cryptocurrency trading platform and a digital currency storing wallet. 175+ coin payments are supported and 2305+ cryptocurrencies are supported for users to make online purchases. Shopify, Magento and WooCommerce are a few ecommerce platform where this payment gateway is available.
  • BitPay: Cross-border payments settled within 48 hours. What sets BitPay apart is that merchants have the option to get paid in GBP or 37 other fiat currencies. BitPay locks in the exchange rate at the time of transaction, accepts customer payment in Bitcoin/crypto and converts that transaction into cash which is deposited directly into the merchant’s bank account.

What Are the Fees Involved?

Costs to accept online payments vary across different providers. There are many fees associated with accepting cards and other online payment types online. Most payment gateways and merchant accounts charge per transaction, setup fees, monthly or annual fees, minimum transaction and processing fees, among others. Decide what features and functionality are most relevant and impactful for your business and explore an approach that supports that. Then settle on the fees.

The standard transaction fee for online payments could be cheaper for merchants with volume discounts. Let’s take a look at some UK examples:

  • UK-based PayPal merchants that accept payments locally are charged up to 2.90% + 30p per transaction.
  • BitPay merchants pay a flat 1% fee on all transactions.
  • With Klarna, merchants are charged based on the payment terms their customers select at time of purchase. This ranges from 5.4% of transaction value to 1.9%

What Is An Ecommerce Payment Gateway?

Instead of physically paying at a point-of-sale terminal in-store, think of a payment gateway as a fast and secure means for you to accept online payments. Payment gateways use front-end technology to authenticate and authorise payment between your ecommerce site and customers. Valid modes of payments include credit cards, debit cards and others we’ve already covered above.

Before you decide on your best payment gateway option, first consider whether you would prefer to use your own merchant account OR a payment gateway account (through a third-party merchant). To help you along, below’s a reminder of how they differ.

What Is A Merchant Account?

A merchant account is a bank account which temporarily holds the funds from online or card payments before transmitting the amount to your nominated business bank account.

What Is A Third-Party Merchant?

Third-party merchants accept and receive credit / debit card payments on behalf of your company. Third-party merchants offer competitive rates and offer appeal for small businesses with limited resources.

Top 10 Payment Gateways To Consider

  1. PayPal

With an intuitive and flexible online payment system, PayPal is easy to navigate for first-timers, start-ups, and small businesses. With nearly 400 million worldwide active accounts, this global leader accepts a variety of credit cards and debit cards, along with seller protection, 24/7 fraud monitoring and even two-factor authentication. The two common options include PayPal Standard and PayPal Express.

PayPal Standard is your usual checkout process that requires your customers to key in their information on your online store before they get redirected to PayPal for their credit card payment. PayPal Express speeds up the checkout process by allowing shoppers to simply login with their existing PayPal account, eliminating the need for shoppers to key in their shipping or billing information.

PayPal is a great option for those thinking of international expansion since it supports 25 currencies and is available in over 200 countries. However, its variable transaction fees will favour those with ambitious sales, who can benefit from low fees of 1.75% to 1% with a monthly volume of  £1,500 to £15,000 to cash in. On the flipside, PayPal’s transaction fees are not as ideal for smaller players, with 2.75% imposed for monthly sales below £1,500.

  1. Adyen

Trusted by Facebook, Airbnb, Netflix, Spotify, Microsoft and more, Adyen provides an out-of-the-box payment solution that allows businesses to receive every payment through one single platform.

Moreover, you will also be equipped with tools to track results and manage risk. With over 250 modes of payment and 150 global currencies accepted, Adyen allows merchants to analyse transaction data to learn more about shopper patterns and behaviour.

Ayden offers 24/7 in-house support with no setup fee and could be a good choice for new business owners.

Adyen prides itself as the payment platform of choice for many of the world’s top companies, with its modern end-to-end infrastructure that accepts MasterCard, Visa, and shoppers' globally preferred payment methods directly. Transaction fees vary, and the full list of pricing can be found on their website.

  1. Stripe

If you are looking for a full-service payment provider that includes your merchant account and payment gateway, Stripe is probably your best bet. Known for its user-friendly dashboard, simplicity, and ability to create a customised payment system, Stripe is popular among merchants in the UK, the US, as well as other Western countries.

Well-received by big names including ASOS, booking.com, and Deliveroo, Stripe is also supportive of businesses of all scales, providing the option of a full website integration or a hosted payments page.

Additionally, Stripe charges a reasonable transaction fee of 1.4% on each UK or European Union (EU) card charge or 2.9% on each international card charge, plus a £0.20 fixed transaction fee. Depending on your business needs, Stripe provides both one-time payment and recurring payment options, and can even support more complex billing models.

  1. WorldPay

As the UK's most popular payment processing gateway, Worldpay offers flexible plans for small and medium-sized businesses and processes half the volume of all payments happening in the UK. This flexible payment processing service offers competitive rates at as low as £19 a month for a basic Gateway Standard account, plus 2.75% for credit cards, or 0.75% for debit cards. WorldPay supports recurring billings, as well as a range of credit cards and debit cards at a transaction fee of 2.75% on the total amount of sale, plus £0.20 fixed transaction fee.

  1. Braintree

Braintree is owned by the PayPal family but operates as an independent entity. Unlike PayPal, Braintree provides individual merchant accounts to sellers on behalf of banks they are partnered with (as opposed to aggregating accounts). Tech-savvy business owners, startups and programmers may be drawn to Braintree's customisable interface that can be integrated by acquiring a code. Braintree provides one-time and recurring payment options at no additional cost on top of its standard pricing. Transaction fees are 1.9%, plus a £0.20 fixed transaction fee and an additional 1% for transactions from cards issued outside of the EU. Chargeback fees are £20.

  1. 2Checkout

Acquired by Verifone in 2020, 2Checkout is PayPal and Stripe's direct competitor. It offers fuss-free pricing plans and lower transaction fees compared to PayPal however currency conversions and chargebacks are more pricey. With no monthly fees and setup fees, 2Checkout is a good option if you’re thinking of going international. It can be integrated with 100+ shopping carts, supports recurring billing for businesses with subscription models, accepts payments in 87 currencies and offers a range of payment gateway languages. Transaction fees for transactions in the UK are 2.4%, plus  £0.30 fixed transaction fee.

  1. Cardstream

Cardstream is the UK's only company that provides a "white label" payment gateway. This payment system lets you accept online card payments on your website by providing a real-time virtual terminal to allow you to accept payments via mail or phone. You can rely on Cardstream as a payment gateway, regardless of which bank handles your card payments. That’s because this payment gateway is free-standing from acquiring banks and payment companies that process card payments - so you can set up a fully branded payment gateway page for your shop! Monthly fees start from £18 and, after 350 transactions,  there’s an extra £9.90 to pay along with some other fees.

  1. Opayo

Opayo (formerly Sage Pay) processes millions of payments for 50,000+ businesses every month. With no hidden charges and reliable service, merchants can receive payments in as fast as 2 days, beating the industry average of 7 days. Opaya offers 24/7 phone support and other services such as payroll and accounting for a comprehensive package. Pricing plans are from £25 (350 monthly transactions) and £45 (for 500 token purchases monthly) and are also bespoke packages for corporates with 3,000+ monthly transactions.

  1. Square

Square could be a good option if you’re looking to get your online store up and running quickly and hassle-free. It is a lot cheaper to do so because it’s partnered with website builders that include Wix and Weebly and along with that, this payment gateway also offers a variety of free features. Transaction fees are kept low for merchants with low volume of face-to-face payments but there is a 2.5% transaction fee. Starting from £9, you can access enhanced features including an ad-free custom domain.

  1. Checkout.com

This all-in-one payment solution bundles its ecommerce payment gateway with a merchant account. If you have global shoppers, Checkout.com accepts payment in 159 countries.

They offer a distinctive pricing structure when it comes to transaction fees — 0.25% + £0.20 for EU cards and 2.9% + £0.20 for non-EU cards —  which are significantly less than the usual 2.9% + £0.20. Plans on Checkout.com are paid for on a monthly basis and there’s also an Enterprise plan that offers appealing seller discounts.

Time well-spent

Osome’s expert accountants and smart software can save you 8 hours a week, and boatloads of stress. Use your time to focus on what your business does best, not financial admin. You do your thing, we’ll do the books.

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