IPSL, the cheque processing joint venture established by Unisys and three of the UK's biggest banks, is in early-stage talks with banks and utilities about the creation of a national electronic bill payment and presentment service.
The initiative, tentatively dubbed Worldbills, is 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.
Under the proposed scheme, iPSL - or a newly-created bank-owned utility - would host a consolidating engine for the aggregation of online bills which consumers would be able to view and approve from a single page on their own bank Web site. Charges for billers would depend on volumes, but it is expected to be signicantly cheaper than the current estimated postal cost of 80 pence per item.
IPSL, which is run as a commercial operation by Unisys in association with co-shareholders Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds TSB, says that the proposal has attracted the interest of three or four other banks and a number of the bigger utilities, card companies and smaller billers.
A spring 2003 Worldbills launch date has been pencilled in, but first iPSL needs to win round a critical mass of banks and billers. Discussions are centring on the commecial nature of the relationship between participants in the venture.
"We are not definitely saying that we are going to launch," says Phil Hickman, chief executive of iPSL. "I’m throwing down the gauntlet to the banks and the billers to say we need to join hands to make this work. It is in everybody's interests."
IPSL commissioned research among 1740 consumers in June, which found that 60% of bill paying adults find the possibility of paying bills online an attractive proposition, and over 70% would prefer to enter an EBPP service through their Internet bank.