*UPS Announces New E-Billing Service

A division of United Parcel Service Inc., Atlanta, yesterday said it formed an alliance that would allow business-to-business customers to receive and pay bills online.

UPS Capital Corp., the financial services arm of UPS, will team up with Internet payment companies Bottomline Technologies Inc., Portsmouth, NH, and Princeton eCom, Princeton, NJ, to provide electronic bill presentment and payment services.

The solution also will provide cash management solutions to cut administrative costs and streamline business transactions, and will allow businesses to track the status of their invoices and adjust payment information based on the status of their goods.

“The key to triggering bill payment, after all, is proof that the goods arrived,” said Bob Bernabucci, president of UPS Capital.

UPS said that to date, most EBPP services address the business-to-consumer market. UPS Capital's solution, however, focuses on the high-volume needs of business-to-business transactions — allowing businesses to transmit accurate electronic payment data quickly and directly into a company's legacy accounts receivable system, for example.

Analysts and customers are impressed with the solution.

“Since so many businesses depend on UPS to deliver goods and information, handling bill presentment and payment is a logical step for a company that facilitates millions of business-to-business transactions every day,” said Avivah Litan, research analyst at the Gartner Group, Stamford, CT. “UPS will be able to integrate this new offering into its already established e-commerce and e-logistics business units, and is positioning itself to offer a comprehensive e-commerce solution to its customers.”

UPS Capital is testing its EBPP technology, with plans for rollout pending conclusion of its pilot projects.

One early customer is Affiliated Computer Services Inc., Dallas, a company that provides outsourced information technology solutions to commercial and government clients worldwide.

“We are very impressed with the direction of UPS Capital's Internet billing and payment solution,” said Mark King, chief financial officer and executive vice president at ACS. “UPS Capital demonstrates a strong customer focus, technical expertise and creative flexibility, and we're happy to be a part of their effort.”

As more companies and consumers switch to paying bills on line, many non-traditional EBPP companies are getting into the act and offering EBPP services.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Postal Service, one of UPS' main competitors, introduced USPSeBillPay, an EBPP program. It offers billers and payers a central site for bill paying transactions without separate passwords, and navigation systems for each biller with whom consumers currently deal.

CheckFree Corp., Atlanta, which handles about 80 percent of online bill paying in the United States, is operating the USPS program. YourAccounts.com, a division of Output Technology Solutions, Spokane, WA, is providing electronic and print services to large commercial customers.

New customers use USPSeBillPay free for the first six months after enrolling. After that, there are two service plans: Pay Everyone, which costs $6 a month and 40 cents for each additional payment after the first 20; and Pay As You Go, which costs $2 a month and 40 cents for each payment. Both plans offer the same function for receiving and paying bills.

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