Bacs and CheckFree to create UK bill payment utility

Bacs and CheckFree to create UK bill payment utility

UK clearing house Bacs is teaming up with CheckFree in a joint venture to promote the adoption of online bill presentment and payment (EBPP) services to British banks and consumers.

The new company has been established to provide UK consumers with consolidated access to electronic bills and statements via bank Websites. It combines Bacs' trusted position as a bank-owned clearing house in the UK payments market, with CheckFree technology and experience of delivering similar services in other markets, notably the US.

Marion King, Bacs chief executive says: "This is a significant move for BACS in its drive to grow its business and add value and service to its customers."

She points to recent independent research which found that over seven million UK adults regularly bank online, while three million of those claim to already view and pay some bills online. Visiting disparate supplier sites or paying bills without access to details is seen as confusing or cumbersome, so the option of viewing and paying through one consolidated bank site already appeals to 68% of online bankers.

Martin Kearsley, managing director of the new company, says: "There are significant business advantages for billers and banks to adopt the service, and I believe it will change the way consumers will manage their money."

In December last year, CheckFree and Bank of America were forced to rewrite a ten-year contract for the supply of electronic billing and payment services in the light of rapid consumer uptake and positive future growth-rate projections. In its first quarter results statement released yesterday, Bank of America noted that online bank and bill pay customers were 21% more profitable than offline customers.

The UK market, with its existing culture of direct debits and entrenched banking relationships, has so far proved a tougher nut to crack. Worldbills, a company established by Unisys' cheque processing subsidiary IPSL in October 2002 with the aim of created a national EBPP utility for the UK, has yet to make any concrete progress. Worldbills itself was looking to take up the reins from a failed bid by payment umbrella body Apacs to establish a similar bank-centric EBPP (electronic bill presentment and payment) service.

The Bacs/Checkfree venture has yet to sign any banks or billers for the service, although a spokesman says the partners expect to have at least two banks onboard by year-end.

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