Alipay is China's leading third-party online payment solution, providing an easy, safe and secure way for millions of individuals and businesses to make and receive payments on the Internet. As of December 2010, Alipay had more than 550 million registered users and facilitated around 8.5 million transactions daily. Alipay provides an escrow payment service that reduces transaction risk for online consumers. Shoppers have the ability to verify whether they are happy with goods they have purchased before releasing funds to the seller. Alipay was a key catalyst in the growth of the online retail market in China from RMB 1 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) in 2003 to RMB 248 billion in GMV in 2009. Alipay is the preferred online payment tool of Internet merchants due to its innovative product technology, unique concept and large user base. In addition to Taobao and Alibaba.com, Alipay provides payment solutions in China for more than 500,000 external merchants for online retail, virtual gaming, digital communications, commercial services, air ticketing and utilities fee payment transactions. Alipay partners with more than 65 financial institutions, including 19 leading national and 45 regional banks across China, as well as Visa and MasterCard. In addition, Alipay also facilitates offline value-added services through a strategic partnership with China Post, which has coverage of rural areas and university campuses. In April 2010, Alipay announced that Alibaba Group will invest a total of RMB5 billion (USD732 million) over the next five years to enhance infrastructure security; develop products to improve ease of use and convenience for customers; continue to grow a massive number of consumer accounts; build a comprehensive network of merchants; and retain and attract top-tier talent from the payments industry. Alipay is an affiliate of Alibaba Group.