Microsoft, NTT Propose 'Net Billing Group

Microsoft and two Japanese companies have suggested setting up services that will let Japanese consumers pay bills over the Web.

Microsoft 's Japanese unit Microsoft Co. Ltd., telecom carrier Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. (NTT) and systems integrator NTT Data Corp. floated the idea this week to set up a local private consortium next month to kick start Internet billing services in Japan.

The trio hope to promote Internet billing services through the consortium so that Japanese consumers will be able to receive and pay utility bills over the 'Net, as well as access bank and credit card statements, the companies said in a statement released yesterday. The group, initially called the Internet Billing Information Service Consortium, will carry out feasibility studies on the concepts involved in the provision of online billing services.

Microsoft, NTT, NTT Data and other consortium members will aim to create a secure EBPP (electronic bill presentment and payment) model for the Japanese market, develop the necessary technical specifications for the service and determine the required tariff structure, according to yesterday's statement. The consortium is set to operate from July until March 31, 2001 and its goal is to commercialize the 'Net billing service during the course of fiscal 2000.

Nine Japanese banks, three utilities and six credit card companies yesterday announced their support for the consortium and said that they plan to join the organization.

NTT, as Japan's dominant local telecom carrier, is also the country's largest issuer of bills, the statement noted.

Although Internet commerce is still getting off the ground in Japan, Microsoft has already announced two 'Net commerce deals this year with Japanese software distributor and Internet holding company Softbank Corp. In March, the pair said that, together with Softbank affiliate Yahoo Japan, they would set up a joint venture -- CarPoint Japan KK -- to offer 'Net-based car sales via a Japanese version of Microsoft's MSN CarPoint online automobile purchasing service.

Then, last month, Microsoft and U.S. consulting company Marsh & McLennan Corp. announced that they were buying into InsWeb Japan KK, an existing joint venture between Softbank and U.S. insurance company InsWeb Corp. to sell insurance products over the 'Net in Japan. [See "Microsoft, US Firm in 'Net Insurance Deal in Japan," May 17]

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080, or via the Internet at http://www.microsoft.com/. NTT, in Tokyo, can be reached at +81-3-3500-8033, or via the Internet at http://www.ntt.co.jp/. The Internet Billing Information Service Consortium's Web page can be reached at http://www.nttdata.co.jp/profile/service/bill/index.html.

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