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Pacific Gas and Electric Co. simplifies mobile payments via apps, SMS

California utility service provider Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is developing a rounded mobile strategy to simplify bills via mobile applications and SMS.

Since January, Pacific Gas and Electric Company has introduced apps for the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry as well as an alerts program. The apps are being developed by TIO Networks.

“There has been a huge growth in online payments over the past few years, especially with last-minute payments like utility bills,” said Hamed Shahbazi, CEO of TIO Networks, Vancouver.

“No one likes paying bills and anything that makes it easier and frictionless is valuable to consumers,” he said.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is an electric company that serves approximately 15 million consumers in northern and central California.

Bright idea
To use Pacific Gas and Electric’s apps, consumers first create an account through TIO.

Then consumers can add a payment method via credit card or bank account number.

After entering their Pacific Gas and Electric account number, consumers can view payments and past history.

Before making a transaction, consumers approve the amount that will be charged to their cards and swipe a signature on screen.

Here’s a screen shot of the Pacific Gas and Electric Mobile Bill Pay BlackBerry app

Users can also manage multiple accounts via the app.

Pacific Gas and Electric initially rolled out apps for the iPhone and BlackBerry, but saw a substantial need from Android customers for a mobile payment solution.

“Android promises to be dominant platform moving forward,” Mr. Shahbazi said.

“Overall impressions and activity is higher with Android and will prove to be a big force to reckon with,” he said.

In addition to apps, Pacific Gas and Electric also has an alerts program that help consumers save money by letting them know when they enter higher-priced ranges.

Users can sign up for the alerts program to receive alerts via text, email or phone call.

Small changes
Pacific Gas and Electric is recognizing that consumers have already made the shift from paper to digital bills and now want to pay them in even a simpler format via mobile.

“Everything you do on the Web, you now want to do on apps and mobile,” Mr. Shahbazi said. “Likewise, every company with a functional Web site wants to provide a user experience on mobile.”

Mobile payments are huge and a growing trend for not only small items, but for bigger items as well.

Most recently, Google Wallet launched on Sprint Nexus S 4G phones to let consumers pay for things on their mobile devices using credit, loyalty and reward cards. (see story).

For last-minute purchases, such as utility bills, mobile gives consumers an advantage because the amount is automatically withdrawn from the card number associated with the account.

“Consumers are noticeably changing their habits in how they interact with payments,” Mr. Shahbazi said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York