Payments service Square has announced an Early Access Programme for Irish retailers, making it available in the country for the first time.

Square offers payments systems for online and physical retailers, including hardware for the point-of-sale and integrated software for websites and apps.

The early access programme comes ahead of a planned full-scale launch here later this year.

"Since 2016 we've had our corporate office here, and we know that Ireland has a very entrepreneurial, small business landscape," said Jason Lalor, executive director for Square Europe. "And by launching our ecosystem of products in Ireland we feel we can best meet demand and support the small businesses to grow and adapt.

"Particularly after a very challenging year."

Square launched in the US in 2009, with Twitter’s Jack Dorsey among its co-founders.

Initially it allowed users to take card payments via a smartphone, but now offers fully-fledged till systems for physical shops. It can also link to a retailer’s digital operations in order to handle online transactions.

Square’s launch here comes as a number of new payment systems have grown in popularity here, including Stripe, Sum Up and Clover.

However Mr Lalor said he believed Square’s offering had an edge over what was already available.

"We’re the only comprehensive solution of its kind, especially when you consider omni-channel selling, which is about in-store and online," he said. "Which is more important than ever.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

"One of our core principles is that everyone should have easy and fair access to financial services - we don't feel anyone should be left out because barriers are too high, cost is too great or the technology is too complex and we have found that legacy systems can often penalise small businesses."

He also said the company did not try to tie users into longer term contracts or agreements.

The Early Access Programme will be limited and offered on a first-come, first served basis.

Mr Lalor said the experience of retailers here would help to inform its full launch later in the year.

Last year a New York Times report revealed that some US customers had had up to 30% of their transaction revenue withheld in order to cover potential card chargebacks.Mr Lalor said that that policy had been reviewed and any credit policies would be considered in the context of the market.

"What we want to do is help and invite sellers in to play with our product, experience the pricing, and as we become more engaged and active in the market we absolutely will be looking at our credit policies," he said.

Square also has a peer-to-peer payments platform, Cash App, which is similar in function to Revolut. However Mr Lalor said there were currently no plans for it to be made available to Irish customers.

Meanwhile, last month it was announced that Square would pay $297m to take a majority stake in music streaming service Tidal, with musician and entrepreneur Jay-Z joining the company’s board as part of the agreement.