PaymentNet has changed its name to Signio Inc. as it seeks to build a bigger presence in electronic commerce.
Signio also announced that it will offer its Internet payment services for a flat monthly fee to on-line merchants and resellers.
The company also unveiled partnerships to distribute its services through the credit card processor Paymentech Inc., Telecheck Services Inc., and Wells Fargo & Co., which has an equity stake in Signio.
Moving to the fixed-fee structure will enable the newly renamed company to offer "unprecedented financial benefits" to customers and partners, said Philippe Courtot, chief executive officer. "We price our services the way the Internet wants to be priced. The Internet is not here to add costs, it's here to reduce costs."
Signio will charge end-users a nominal setup fee and $495 a month for unlimited transactions. The monthly fee for fewer than 10,000 transactions is $39.95.
Pricing for resellers such as banks is $150 a month for unlimited transactions and $15 for fewer than 10,000.
Signio's pricing differs from the per-transaction approach of competitors such as Cybercash Inc. of Reston, Va. The altered fee structure has already helped Signio draw new distribution partners, Mr. Courtot said.
Avivah Litan, research director at GartnerGroup in Stamford, Conn., said the pricing is a ploy to gain market share rapidly. It "will be very attractive to small and large merchants, and will ignite a price war with the competition, if Signio manages to gain a significant market share," she said.
The core of the company's service is a "switch" that routes Internet payments from merchant Web sites to multiple back-end processing systems, including credit card networks and the check guarantee program of Telecheck, a First Data Corp. subsidiary.
Mr. Courtot and Signio's partners tout the speed of those connections. The company relies on the utility-like TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/Internet protocol) connections that are widely used for Internet business.
"Signio provides a highly reliable and fast payment processing service that delivers unparalleled multi-payment connectivity across the Internet," said Debra Rossi, executive vice president at $201 billion-asset Wells in San Francisco.
Wells will market the payment services to businesses applying for merchant credit card accounts. Mr. Courtot said that once an account is set up, a merchant can begin accepting payments using Signio in one hour.
Signio technology received plaudits from Gary Craft, managing director of investment research at E-Offering, an on-line investment bank.
"It was able to deal effectively with 'hostile' transactions without disrupting batch processing of good transactions," Mr. Craft wrote in a recent research report. He said Signio "could become the dominant player among independent Internet payment organizations," though he still gave Cybercash "some chance."
Signio faces some challenges, according to Ms. Litan, including building brand recognition and supporting multiple currencies to allow for global electronic commerce.
The name Signio, related to the Latin "signum" (mark, sign), reflects the importance of the electronic signature in electronic commerce, Mr. Courtot said.
In addition to changing its name, the company has moved its headquarters, from to Redwood City from Pleasanton. The reason was to attract top engineering talent more easily, Mr. Courtot said.
"You have to be right in Silicon Valley to do that," he said.