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Millions of energy customers in California can now make mobile bill payments

Multichannel expedited bill payment processor TIO Networks Corp. has launched a platform letting nearly 6 million energy customers in California make bill payments by using their mobile phone.

TIO’s mobile bill payment application, which links to users’ credit/debit cards and bank accounts, is free to download from Apple’s App Store and will run on any iPhone OS-powered devices such as iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Through a contract with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), TIO’s mobile bill payment services will be offered to energy customers throughout Northern and Central California.

“TIO and PG&E cooperatively developed a tight integration between TIO’s transaction processing host and PG&E’s billing system,” said Chris Ericksen, senior vice president of business development for TIO Networks, Burnaby, BC. “This integration permits real-time lookup of customer account information, including but not limited to customer name and balance due.

“TIO developed a user experience that virtually eliminates improperly posted payments as well as repudiation issues,” he said. “The companies then launched PG&E bill payment in certain PG&E offices and third-party retail locations on TIO-provisioned self-service kiosks.

“These kiosks provide PG&E customers who prefer to pay in person with a convenient and expedient method to do so without the long lines.”

TIO is a multichannel expedited bill payment processor serving the telecom, wireless, cable and utility bill issuers across North America, with more than 21,000 endpoints to its processing network.

Mr. Ericksen said that what kiosks and mobile bill payment have in common is convenience.

“Mobile resonates positively with those PG&E customers who, like many Americans, are using their mobile devices more like personal computers than phones,” Mr. Ericksen said. “PG&E customers access email, the Internet and more from their smartphones—it is only logical that they have access to PG&E bill payment too.”

PG&E mobile bill pay launch planning is still being finalized, but discussions have included awareness marketing on PG&E’s Web site.

“Positioning of this communication within the Web site is still being defined as well, but a likely location will be in the ‘Ways To Pay’ section of,” Mr. Ericksen said.

“From here, customers will likely be able to learn about the service but ultimately will be able to link to the Apple App Store, where they can download the bill pay application at no cost,” he said.

Mobile bill payments
TIO’s mobile payment platform lets consumers make expedited payments from their smartphones.

The mobile application lets customers make payments using their credit or debit cards facilitated with the help of Denver-based IPCommerce, which specializes in cloud computing payment applications.

Customers will also be able to make payments using their bank accounts.

Subsequent versions of the application will include payment types such as PayPal and other electronic payment systems.

TIO is launching the mobile application framework with PG&E in one of the highest areas of smartphone penetration in the U.S.

“The Bay Area has proven to be a hot bed for iPhone app adoption—we think this app will appeal to a large set of PG&E customers,” said Laurent May, vice president of product development at TIO.

“TIO will also be considering using mobile ad networks like AdMob and Quattro Wireless—now the basis for Apple’s iAd—to geotarget smartphone users in PG&E’s service area,” he said.

“We think serving targeted promotional ads is a powerful way to market payment applications like TIO’s, directly on consumers’ handsets, in areas that PG&E serves.”

Atimi Software worked cooperatively with TIO to develop TIO’s 100 percent owned and proprietary mobile payments platform.

The framework allows TIO create mobile applications customized to each biller’s branding, user experience and customer information requirements.

“TIO leveraged Atimi’s experience in creating highly functional, great looking applications in the iPhone environment, while TIO created the set of mobile payment APIs which connect to TIO’s back office,” Mr. May said. “TIO’s set of cloud-based mobile services facilitate the settlement of funds from consumers to billers and has the ability to onboard other partners very quickly.”
IP Commerce is acting as TIO’s credit and debit gateway, and eventually will power other forms of payment.

“Via IP Commerce, TIO can facilitate transactions with leading processors like First Data and others,” Mr. May said. “IP Commerce’s suite of services significantly reduced our time to market with our mobile product.”