New Zealand Post expects New Zealand firms sending out large numbers of bills to be able to reach customers more effectively and at lower cost by using its new Internet-based electronic billing and payment service.
The SOE has signed an agreement with US CheckFree to deliver the multimillion-dollar service throughout New Zealand.
The installation is the first venture outside the US for Atlanta-based CheckFree, which provides electronic commerce services and software to most major US banks.
New Zealand Post business development manager Douglas Maclean says the service will be offered to New Zealand banks, allowing them to provide Internet delivery and payments under their own brand.
Modelled on CheckFree's US operation, customers will access bills on a summary screen presented to them either through their bank's online banking service, the billing company's Web site or from the service itself.
Internet billing for consumers is the first in a rollout of an electronic suite of services to be offered.
Next, customers will see PC bill payment systems integrating personal financial management software packages such as Microsoft Money and Intuit Quicken, and a small business service is also planned for the latter part of next year.
New Zealand Post chief executive Elmar Toime says the service takes New Zealand Post business and transfers it directly to the electronic environment.
"We are not competing with the banks but providing them with another means of reaching their customers."
For the first three months New Zealand Post will run the service with a limited number of billing customers in a closed pilot to test the integrity of the processes and their functionality.
"One of the challenges was to develop an infrastructure that had manageable costs because no one knows how the Internet is going to look and feel two years out, let alone in five years," says Maclean. "We wanted a system that would be flexible enough to allow us change as the Internet changes."
He says NZ Post has substantial experience in the delivery of billing systems through its subsidiary Datamail.
Datamail, which provides a document production and direct marketing service, produces more than 80 million bills a year, while New Zealand Post shops and agencies handle 13 million payments annually.