Consumers Not Ready for EBPP

Consumers’ interest in electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) services lags behind that of companies, particularly high-volume billers that want to switch from paper-based to electronic systems, according to research conducted by PSI Global.

According to PSI’s research, only 7 percent of US households think they will be capable of sending and receiving bills via the Internet within six to 12 months, and only 16 percent said they would like to use the Internet both to receive and pay bills within the next three years.

PSI predicts that up to 15 percent of US households are likely to be immediate adopters of EBPP services when they become available. According to PSI’s Beth Robertson, the change to electronic billing may have to be led by the companies sending the bills rather than by the consumers paying them.

“We also believe that a demand-push scenario on the part of billers will yield the most tangible results,” Robertson said.

The market conditions seem ripe for EBPP to take off, according to PSI’s research. Close to 50 percent of US households already have PCs, and more than a third of these PC owners actively use financial management software. The use of checks to pay bills has also declined from 90 percent in 1990 to 76 percent this year, according to PSI.

“The infrastructure is in place for large numbers of consumers to accept EBPP, the next logical step beyond online banking and e-commerce,” Robertson said.

The most likely agent to drive the change from paper-based billing to electronics, according to PSI, is the potential cost savings for the leading billing sectors. Consumers are expected to pay 15.9 billion bill payments. The leading billing sectors — primarily lenders, utilities, communications, insurance and credit card issuers — account for more than 80 percent of all bills to consumers. For these firms, EBPP potentially means billions of dollars in cost savings annually.

Among the factors that could delay consumer acceptance of EBPP are concerns over privacy and convenience. Almost three-quarters (63 percent) of households believe that receiving and paying bills using the US Postal Service is more reliable and secure than electronic delivery options; 74 percent of households like the privacy of paying bills by check; and 72 percent like the convenience of paying bills by check.

PSI’s research also found that consumers’ concerns about control and security are the most important factors affecting the use of electronic bill payment options. One-quarter of households believe that the Internet is not secure, and 65 percent are not certain about Internet security. For nearly half of all households, retaining control of payment timing is important.

“Substantial consumer education efforts will be required for the successful implementation of EBPP,” Robertson said. “Building trust in the transport mechanism will be key to success, and the inroads being made in e-commerce could have a considerable positive impact on the acceptance of EBPP.”

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