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Utility Promises Online Billing And Payment

Midwestern power company Ameren Corp. today became the latest utility to promise online bill presentment and payment. The provider of electricity and natural gas said it will launch a Web site in early 1999 where its 1.8 million electricity and natural gas customers can view and pay their bills online. Ameren is the parent of Union Electric Co. (now known as AmerenUE) in Missouri, and Central Illinois Public Service (now known as AmerenCIPS).

Ameren's Web site will use E-Bill technology from CheckFree Corp., which exchanges data directly with a customer's bank or with personal financial management software such as Intuit's Quicken. Earlier this month, CheckFree announced a similar deal with Southern Co., the largest electricity producer in the U.S. with nearly 11 million customers. Other utilities currently testing online bill presentment and payment systems include Southern California Edison, United Illuminating, and GPU Energy.

In the race to provide online billing and payment technologies, CheckFree is competing primarily with TransPoint, a joint venture between Microsoft and First Data with a major equity investment from Citibank. But the two technologies aren't mutually exclusive. Southern California Edison, for example, is running pilots of both CheckFree and TransPoint systems with the goal of offering customers more choices.

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