U.S. Postal Service Expands E-Billing Options

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has announced an agreement with CheckFree Holdings Corp. (Nasdaq: CKFR) to provide electronic billing and payment services to customers through its USPS.com Internet portal.

Effective immediately, customers who sign up for the Postal Service’s e-commerce site can use the eBillPay service to make payments to any business or individual. Users can also electronically view and pay bills from such companies as AT&T, MCI Worldcom, Sprint, GTE, BellSouth, Qwest, Countryside Mortgage, Homeside Lending, Amoco Oil, and Florida Power & Light Company.

Regional telecommunications, utility, cable and wireless companies are also participating.

E-Postmark

According to CheckFree, eBillPay will also soon include the Postal Service’s Electronic Postmark, which will allow customers to attach electronic date and time stamps to billing data.

The agreement calls for the Postal Service to use CheckFree’s Genesis 2000 electronic billing and payment engine for customers who want to pay for postage or other products using bank debiting. Businesses will be able to use the service for PC postage, meter resetting and payments for postage entered at multiple locations.

CheckFree said it will also be a strategic partner in a Postal Service venture enabling electronic money transfers. Consumers will be able to purchase from each other online — to pay for items bought at auction, for example — as well as to send money to children in college, or attach electronic “cash” to birthday cards.

Postal Service Keeps Pace in Digital Age

“Our people and our organization will ensure secure, reliable service via the Internet with the same level of commitment we have delivered on paper for more than 200 years,” said U.S. Postmaster General William J. Henderson.

The Postal Service is already using Output Technology Solutions’ YourAccounts.com to provide integrated print and electronic billing services to companies that issue bills monthly. Output Technology is the Postal Service’s largest customer for first-class mail.

BofA in the Mix

Bank of America provides cash management services for the electronic billing and payment system. “Electronic bill presentment is a natural next step for the United States Postal Service, which has been a trusted deliverer of paper bills for hundreds of years,” said Nick Alex, senior vice president and manager of global product and strategy at Bank of America. “Bank of America has provided paper-based payment and deposit services for the United States Postal Service in thousands of locations, so it is a logical evolution for us to now support electronic transactions in virtual locations.”

CheckFree is in the process of acquiring BlueGill Technologies, which will provide in-house software for large to medium billers. The Postal Service will offer billing services for small companies, with help from CheckFree.

The Atlanta, Georgia-based CheckFree provides e-billing systems to more than 89 companies, covering more than 500 million bills a month. The company also has partnerships with banks, brokerage firms and Internet portals.

CheckFree shares were at 62 1/4 in early trading Wednesday, down 2 3/4.

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