A Hong Kong mobile phone company is jumping on the electronic presentment bandwagon-and may be the first Asian biller to do so. Agreements with two U.S. companies would let Peoples Telephone Company Ltd. get around the region's lack of automated clearing houses for executing transactions.
By August, the three companies said, an Internet system for billing Peoples' customers should be up and running. The customers would pay their bills over the Internet too, using their credit or debit cards.
Peoples Telephone has 200,000 customers.
The system has been tested successfully, the companies said.
It was developed by the Asia-Pacific division of Santa Clara, Calif.- based Web/CKS, an Internet marketing and consulting firm.
First Ecom.com Inc., a Reno credit card processor, will arrange to process payments through Bank of Bermuda.
The system would handle any necessary currency exchanges.
"Payment systems for Internet transactions do not meaningfully exist in Asia," said Gregory Pek, president and chief executive officer of First Ecom.com.
Few Hong Kong banks have gotten involved with Internet transaction processing, he said.
Credit and debit cards will emerge as the electronic payment method of choice in Hong Kong, Mr. Pek predicted, because Asia has not developed a system for recurring and paperless bill payments.
"The growth of Internet transactions in the United States took everyone by surprise," he said. The Hong Kong community "has not had time to catch up with the United States with respect to processing systems."
Karl Duffy, a vice president of the Killen & Associates consulting firm in Palo Alto, Calif., questioned whether the costs associated with credit card processing would increase the cost of electronic bill presentment. In the United States, electronic presentment is viewed as a way for billers to reduce their costs.
First Ecom.com went public in February. Its stock trades in the U.S. over-the-counter market.
The company is marketing its services to banks in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia.
In May it hired Raymond Chan, the former general manager of Visa International's greater China operations, to head its Asian bank processing operations.
It also expects telecommunications companies to resell its services to merchants that sell over the Web, Mr. Pek said.
Processing through Bermuda, with its favorable tax policies, will help billers and merchants avoid paying multiple taxes that might arise from card processing agreements with banks in several countries, Mr. Pek said.