Transpoint LLC announced this week that by February it will be able to help consumers pay any and all of their bills using the Internet -- even those from the likes of baby-sitters or pet groomers.
The new service would round out the payment offerings of the electronic bill presentment and payment company. Financial companies and industry analysts have complained that Transpoint -- a joint venture of Microsoft Corp., First Data Corp., and Citigroup Inc. -- lacked the ability to send payments everywhere. Rival Checkfree Holdings Corp. of Norcross, Ga., has had "pay-anyone" capability since the mid-1980s.
People will be enabled to pay all their bills on-line: those they receive electronically through Transpoint, those they receive in the mail but wish to pay electronically, and payments to local businesses that don't even send them bills.
"Checkfree is finally going to face some stiff competition," said Avivah Litan, research director at GartnerGroup in Stamford, Conn. "In terms of offering a complete, end-to-end bill payment system, Transpoint has finally arrived."
The company plans to establish the relationships needed to send electronic payments to "seven or eight hundred" companies by the time it launches the service, said Lewis Levin, president and chief executive officer. It would print paper checks to pay other companies or the baby-sitter.
The service will be available at Transpoint's own bill delivery and payment Web site and at Microsoft's MoneyCentral personal finance Internet site. Mr. Levin declined to say how much the company would charge for the service but said, "It's hard to do for free."
Mr. Levin also said Transpoint would spend millions of dollars to advertise its bill presentment and payment services in mainstream media in coming months. He declined to specify the ad budget.
Last month Transpoint an-nounced a partnership with M&I Data Services for pay-anyone service to banks and other financial companies that deliver Transpoint's electronic bills to their customers. But Transpoint is not relying on M&I, a unit of Milwaukee-based Marshall & Ilsley Corp., for the service at the Transpoint and Microsoft Web sites.
Transpoint developed the technology in-house. It is relying on investor Citigroup's processing capabilities to make payments to some customers, Mr. Levin said. Transpoint will continue to recommend M&I's pay-anyone capability to banks presenting Transpoint bills, he said.
In February, Transpoint will begin sending e-mails to consumers, notifying them that they have an electronic bill available through Transpoint. This service will cover only electronic bills that Transpoint consolidates.
Checkfree, meanwhile, an-nounced this week that 80 financial companies are using all aspects of its next-generation electronic billing and payment system, called Genesis 2000. Another 270 have been connected to the system but do not use all its functions.
The system processes electronic bills for companies that send them through Checkfree, hosts bill delivery Internet pages for banks and other financial companies, and processes payments. Checkfree had used different computer systems for those functions.
The Georgia company now presents electronic bills from 42 companies, compared with 25 for Transpoint.