Massachusetts Financial Services is the latest fund company to let investors shop on-line for additional shares of mutual funds they already hold stakes in.
Massachusetts Financial, which introduced the change last week, said it is not cutting out the middleman.
Brokers who make an original investment for their clients will continue to get commissions when additional investments are made over the Internet, a company spokesman said.
But industry consultant Burton Greenwald said Massachusetts Financial and other fund companies that sell through brokers will face increasing pressure to do away with conventional sales commissions.
"Investors will either go direct on their own or use some sort of intermediary for advisory help and pay some sort of annual-fee-based compensation," said Mr. Greenwald, who is based in Philadelphia.
The change was promoted beginning last week on the fund company's Web site. The minimum investment is $50, and the maximum daily investment is $100,000. To pay for shares, a client's bank account is drafted.
"The main reason behind this is that shareholders have been asking our people on the phone if it is possible for them to just do this over the Internet," said David Oliveri, a spokesman for the Boston-based fund company.
Alliance Capital Management rolled out the same service at the beginning of the year, and AIM Management Group is planning to follow suit late this year or early in 2000.
The changes will probably make investors think about how they buy funds, even if the fund companies do not intend that, Mr. Greenwald said.
"This just sets investors to thinking whether or not they are really prepared to continue to pay up for sales charges," he said.
Fund supermarkets like those run by Charles Schwab & Co. and Fidelity Investments are changing the ground rules for how funds are bought.
And no-load fund companies are also putting pressure on their commission-driven rivals. Invesco Funds Group plans to let investors open new accounts on-line, starting this month.