Dreading the mail no longer thanks to e-bills

Many of us are all high-tech and pay our bills on-line yet receive them in a manner no different from the days of yore: via the post.

e-route Inc., a company owned by several Canadian financial institutions, was launched late last month with an offer to put an end to receiving bills by mail.

The solution is called webdoxs, an on-line document presentment service which allows customers to receive bills directly through certain banking sites, according to the company.

“It is an evolutionary event in the Web banking field,” said Rob Whitwham, CEO of Toronto-based e-route Inc. at the launch. “Customers are telling us this is something they want.”

The solution was launched in beta version before Christmas last year with Videotron Communications Inc. in Montreal where 175,000 customers, of approximately 1.5 million, signed up, according to Whitwham.

It is now available to on-line banking customers of the participating financial institutions including the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Mouvement des caisse Desjardins, National Bank of Canada, Royal Bank of Canada and the TD Bank Financial Group. Later this year customers of Scotiabank, Laurentian Bank and Credit Union Central of Canada will be able to access the service.

e-route is owned by all the participating financial groups save the last two.

Customers can access webdoxs using their existing on-line banking portal, with no need to access another site or remember additional user names and passwords. The webdoxs service will appear directly on a customer’s personal on-line banking page. The financial institution then accesses e-route’s site in order for clients to view and pay bills. Additionally customers can store all of their bills at one web location so they can access it from any computer, providing of course the browser has 128-bit encryption.

Participating companies send bills to e-route which then allows the customer to access them through their financial institution.

Since security is of paramount importance, webdoxs is designed so it cannot be accessed directly, rather only through one of the financial institution’s Web sites. The drawback, as it stands now, is the limited number of bills that can be received via e-route. In addition to getting a Videotron bill, users can also receive Bell Canada and Bell mobility bills, a few hydro bills and Ford Credit Canada Ltd. and Chevron Canada Ltd bills.

“This is in the embryonic stage,” Whitwham explained.

Terry O’Grady, Royal Bank’s senior manager of product and marketing in Toronto, agreed. “It is early in the process and will hopefully grow.” He also added that it would be nice to have a few other companies on board, like department stores, and that negotiations are in the works.

The potential is certainly out there since, according to e-route, there are more than 800 million bills sent out annually in Canada.

Since the biller essentially owns the page where the bill is presented, it can use that space to advertise specials or events as is done with traditional billing methods.

Those who are part of the current availability are enthusiastic.

“It falls in perfectly with our strategy of e-service,” said Don Whitehead, assistant regional manager of Ford Credit Canada Ltd. in Oakville, Ont.

“There are actually less expensive ways (than on-line) to bill your customers [but]…convenience is the key,” he added.

Alice Hale, supervisor of credit card sales for Vancouver-based Chevron Canada Ltd., agreed. “We are hearing what our customers tell us and they are telling us they want convenience. Our customers are asking for it.”

Whitwham said that by July of this year 33 per cent of the 800 millions bills Canadians receive annually will be available on-line with e-route.

“This is where the whole industry will ultimately go.”