Major Players Eye Online Billing Business

SAN MATEO (05/01/2000) - The potential for EBPP electronic bill presentment and payment) to streamline business transactions lured several powerhouses last week, all of which partnered with EBPP providers.

Reflecting the range of interest in EBPP, Bank of America Corp. partnered with Checkfree Corp.; UPS Capital, the financial services arm of United Parcel Service, teamed with Bottomline and Princeton eCom; and consulting company Andersen Consulting Inc. teamed with edocs Inc..

Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner Group, a market research company, in Stamford, Connecticut, called the partnerships a sign of the times.

"Everyone wants a piece of the action. There's a 30 to 40 percent subscriber growth in some markets. Every day there's a new market or trading exchange set up and wherever you go now, you're talking e-business," Litan said.

Andersen chose edocs, according to Litan, because of edocs' focus on CRM (customer relationship management). Andersen and edocs are primarily targeting the utility and telecommunications industries, enabling customers to view their bills and statements online.

"We know that one of the primary drivers to a customer call center is in relation to the customer's bill or statement," said Keely Krantz, a spokesperson for edocs. "These calls cost companies between $10 and $50 to handle, depending on the complexity of the request -- and it's usually, 'I need a copy of the bill for expense or tax purposes.' If that consumer can self-provision that service online, the cost savings to the company is really dramatic."

UPS Capital, via its new partnerships, plans to target the business-to-business market and promises to link the delivery of goods with information and to accelerate the delivery of funds, according to Richard Brennan, senior vice president of technology at UPS Capital.

Gartner's Litan noted that UPS Capital's strength comes from its established position in the supply chain.

She noted that many businesses don't want to pay for goods until they receive them, which adds strength to UPS Capital's offering.

Bank of America's deal with Checkfree targets both the business-to-consumer and b-to-b arena, Litan said. "BofA wants to be the payment vehicle of choice, whether it's b-to-c or b-to-b," she said.

While banks may be questioning why they should pay credit card fees when they can have a piece of the pie themselves, credit cards work quite well for most businesses and customers. Banks may have to offer some incentive to draw customers away from their current payment methods, Litan said.

Bank of America Corp., in San Francisco, is at www.bofa.com. Checkfree Corp., in Norcross, Georgia., is at www.checkfree.com. UPS Capital Corp., in Atlanta, is at www.upscapital.com. Bottomline Technologies, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is at www.bottomline.com. Andersen Consulting Inc., in Chicago, Illinois, is at www.ac.com. edocs Inc., in Natick, Massachusetts, is at www.edocs.com.

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