Technology News: TowerGroup Notes 5 Myths In Biller-Direct

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TowerGroup said it has identified five myths associated with the success of biller-direct websites.

Among those myths: the belief that these sites immediately credit consumers' accounts for online payments; that consumers can pay by credit card at biller-direct sites; that consumers can view more bills at biller-direct sites than at consolidator sites; that biller-direct presentment and bill payment are free; and that biller-direct sites offer a deeper array of features and functionality than do consolidators.

"TowerGroup's examination of 80 top biller-direct sites raises doubts about the reliability of each of these assertions," said Beth Robertson, senior analyst in the Global Payments research service at TowerGroup and author of the research. "For example, only 31% of the sites reviewed actually update their customers' accounts to register that a payment has been made on the same day that a customer performs an online transaction. More than half of biller-direct sites take more than two days to post payments."

Other findings:

* Just 33% of the leading biller-direct sites reviewed offer a credit card payment option. "Consolidator initiatives in this area will make credit cards available as a payment option at some bank sites by 2005," it said.

* It is becoming increasingly inaccurate to claim that billers offer online bill payment services free of charge. Like consolidators, many billers recognize that consumers may be willing to pay a fee for premium services such as same-day account credits.

* The touted benefits of biller-direct sites are collectively available at select biller sites. But another answer to the question of why the biller-direct model has gained greater traction may lie in simple math. Most consumers receive a higher rate of solicitations per month from their various billers than they do from consolidators to try online bill presentment and payment.

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