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Companies devising way to receive and pay bills over the Internet

June 27, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Forget using the excuse, ``The check’s in the mail.″ The new explanation may well be: ``The check’s on the Net.″

Under a project announced Thursday, Microsoft Corp. and First Data Corp. will put the entire billing and payment process online. It allows a biller, say a credit card company or local electric company, to send a customer’s bill to MSFDC, the companies’ Denver-based joint venture.

Customers can call up the bill on a computer, review it and then instruct their bank to generate an electronic payment to MSFDC, which will then pass it on electronically to the biller.

``It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to online banking this year,″ said Jim Bruene, publisher of Online Banking Report.

Bruene estimated that 10 to 12 million bills are paid electronically each month, through a bank’s own online system, for example. But most companies continue to send paper bills through the mail even though the technology exists to bill customers online.

Darren Remington, general manager for electronic bill payment at Microsoft, said going paperless will save banks and billers from processing paper bills and payments _ between 50 cents and a few dollars each.

The biller will pay a flat fee to MSFDC that will be ``in the neighborhood of the cost of a postal stamp,″ said Chuck White, president of electronic commerce payment services for First Data, based in Hackensack, N.J.

The fee could bring substantial revenue if multiplied by more than 14 billion _ the number of recurring bills that the companies estimate the roughly 100 million U.S. households receive a year.

The new venture still faces stiff competition from established companies such as Checkfree Corp., which already handle payments for banks, and Integrion, a consortium of banks that has joined with IBM to set up a similar online system.

Remington said consumers will benefit by saving on the hassle of tracking paper statements.

``Once you’ve indicated that you want to pay (the bill), you can store it on your personal computer,″ he said. ``You can throw out the shoe box.″

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