HERNDON, Va. — Nacha, the electronic payments association, estimated that 32 million paper checks were converted into electronic debits at retail sites last year, a volume that Stephen A. Schutze, chairman of the group’s electronic check council, said was “higher than what was expected.”

Electronic checks are processed through the automated clearing house, an electronic payments system commonly used for direct deposit and direct payment.

Mr. Schutze, who is also director of e-strategies at the American Bankers Association, said that Nacha had predicted check truncation volume of 25 million for 2000. He said the higher number shows that “retailers are beginning to take advantage of the savings and efficiencies inherent in electronic payments rather than paper processing and that this method of check conversion is growing rapidly.”

The estimate of electronic check volume in 2000 is based on a survey done by the electronic check council, as well as on an actual count of transactions processed by ACH operators in the fourth quarter, the first period for which data are available.

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