Canada Post’s electronic billing subsidiary is putting the finishing touches on a project to integrate its IT infrastructure with that of a rival firm with which it merged almost a year ago.
Epost on Monday said it would be launching
a campaign this summer to advertise the results its combination with Webox would have on its electronic bill payment and presentment (EBPP) service to consumers. EBPP allows users to pay phone, credit card, Internet or utility bills online, either through Epost’s Web site or one of nine Canadian financial institutions which have partnered with the firm.
While Epost is owned by Canada Post Corp., Webdoxs was launched by E-Route, a joint venture with CIBC, National Bank of Canada, Scotiabank, TD Financial Group, Laurentian Bank and Mouvement des caisses Desjardins. Epost bought Webdoxs for $14.5 million last year, promising that bill payment services for both firms would be offered through Epost within six months of the transaction.
Epost vice-president of marketing and sales Michael Garrity said the biggest steps in the integration process is allowing cross-presentment: combining the lists of available mailers and billers from both services. Cross-presentment is up and running with most of Epost’s partners today, Garrity said. The exceptions include the Royal Bank of Canada, which will be ready by the end of next month, and TD Canada Trust, which will be ready in August.
“What they see is a single inbox instead of a two separate boxes,” he said.
Epost still has to merge its overall IT systems with that of Wedboxs, develop code and pass it on to financial institutions, Garrity said. This should be done by the end of the year.
“You’ve got to do them one at a time and you have to work with the financial institutions within their technology release windows, and they book those months and months in advance,” he said. “We weren’t allowed to tell anybody (about the Webdoxs deal) before July 2004, which was the first time the banks heard about it. That’s when the clock started, essentially.”
Garrity said Epost sees itself as a partner who will help companies like Bell Mobility, which has been struggling to provide a unified bill for its wireline and wireless customer for several years. Besides the convenience of paying bills online, Garrity said users are attracted to the idea of using e-billing services to check anomalies or ask questions electronically rather than over the phone. Enmax Energy is one example of an Epost customer who is using Epost to offer click-through interactive customer service, he added.
Market research companies such as Toronto-based TNS Canadian Facts have been tracking the EBPP space since 2001, said vice-president Rhonda Grunier.
“We’re picking up some activity,” she said. “If we look at Canadians who have Internet access at home, we have 10 per cent who indicate they use e-billing (payment services.”
The rate is 17 per cent, Grunier added, for the sub-segment who are conducting other forms of electronic banking. “They’re obviously the prime candidates for using this stuff.”
So far about two million people have registered with Epost, Garrity said, along with one hundred mailers.