TransPoint says it will finally introduce its "Pay Anyone" service commercially on February 1. The Englewood, CO-based e-billing company has promised to deliver pay anyone-the electronic payment of bills not presented electronically-since late 1997, but TransPoint chief executive Lewis Levin says its release this month is certain.

An initial 750 billers in the 20 leading metropolitan areas nationwide will be capable of receiving electronic payments initiated by consumers on TransPoint's Web site and on the higher-profile site of its partial owner, Microsoft Corp. Citicorp's portal is slated as another distribution point later this quarter, as are another couple of banks, including Compass Bancshares Inc., Birmingham, AL.

No bank is yet using the Pay Anyone service TransPoint said last October it would receive from Brown Deer, WI-based M&I Data Services, Levin confirms. He presents that offering as one geared more toward banks-which are already M&I clients-and TransPoint's homegrown offering as one geared toward consumers.

In a move that perplexed some industry observers, TransPoint announced it would obtain pay-anyone functionality from M&I, only to declare shortly thereafter that it would develop its own pay-anyone service. TransPoint's internally developed service in part draws on partners First Data Corp., Englewood, CO, and Citicorp, New York-which also had pledged, but failed, to equip TransPoint with such a service.

Presentment here

On the presentment side, TransPoint since last summer has used the Microsoft portal, MSN, to reach consumers. Levin says, however, that "very, very few" consumers have used bill presentment (which always incorporates payment) on MSN because participating billers haven't advertised its availability. At the time, Microsoft had announced that MSN would serve as a TransPoint distribution point. But a major consumer advertising campaign is forthcoming and will breathe life into the service, TransPoint says.

As part of such a campaign, the vendor wants to convey that its new offering bundles an unprecedented range of bill payment options. These include a new business for TransPoint: the expanding market for hybrid paper-and-e-bills. Competing with upstart entities such as PayMyBills.com and Paytrust.com, TransPoint later this year plans to scan and reformat any paper bills that consumers have redirected to TransPoint and present them on the Web.

Convinced that consumers neither will understand nor tolerate different processes around scanned bills, regular e-bills (presentment), and pay anyone (regular paper bills), TransPoint will handle all bills the same way on a single Web site. It plans to offer six months free service to consumers interested in working with the initial 750 billers, which together represent the majority of utilities, credit card companies, insurers, and other major billers. For those willing to pay more-$5.95 a month, versus the standard $2.95-there's a premium offering, which will allow consumers to make even person-to-person payments electronically. TransPoint also is offering a three-month free trial of that service.

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