Mobile Commerce Daily is now Retail Dive: Mobile Commerce! Click here to learn more!

PG&E lets 6M customers pay bills via iOS devices

Utilities giant Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has launched a mobile bill payment application to enhance services for its customers in Northern and Central California with Apple iOS devices.

PG&E tapped multichannel expedited bill payment processor TIO Networks Corp. to create the application, which lets its 6 million customers pay their utility bills on an expedited basis using an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad.

“PG&E is customer-centric—permitting customers to pay their bills when and how they want is of paramount importance to PG&E and many other utilities,” said Hamed Shahbazi, chairman and CEO of TIO Networks, Vancouver, BC, Canada. “Originally PG&E and TIO began working together after we were awarded a contract to deploy self-service kiosks into PG&E’s community office locations, as well as third-party retail locations throughout the Bay Area.

“The overarching objective of this project was to help alleviate the periodic pressure at the counter created from long lines of PG&E customers wishing to pay their bills in person—most of these customers were paying in cash and check,” he said. “TIO deployed kiosks designed to provide a convenient and near real-time method for customers to pay with those tender types and avoid those lines.

“The PG&E mobile payments application strategy is an extension of the same core value proposition provided by the kiosk application—allow customers to pay their bills conveniently, when and how they want.”

Since the pre-launch phase in late December 2010, several thousand PG&E customers have already downloaded the application and are paying their bills via their mobile devices.

PG&E customers can download the TIO mobile application from Apple’s App Store for free and pay their bills on the go, anytime and anywhere.

Hispanic consumers will soon be able to benefit from a bilingual user interface on the mobile application.

The TIO payment application enables real-time access to a customer’s account balance via iOS-powered devices and instructions for payment with Visa, MasterCard or through a customer’s bank account.

Unbanked consumers can use their prepaid credit cards to pay their PG&E bills.

“For those customers who have the means to pay via electronic tender types like ACH and credit there is arguably no easier way to pay than via smartphone,” Mr. Shahbazi said.

PG&E’s target market is everyone with a smartphone or comparable device who has the ability to pay via Bank ACH or any kind of Visa or MasterCard who lives in one of the Bay Area’s nine counties.

The  application features real-time processing of bill payment and bill presentment, letting customers access their account balance without having their account numbers present.

PG&E will be expanding the payment platform to include Android and BlackBerry versions in the near future.

Mobile payments boom
A recent report from Aite Group provides a roadmap to mobile payments in the United States, defining and segmenting the mobile payments universe and examining the competitive and market trends shaping the space.

Based on more than 60 Aite Group interviews with industry stakeholders in September and October 2010, the report sizes and projects the growth of mobile payments in the United States over the next few years, and provides snapshots of key stakeholders operating in the space.

Long seen as a laggard in mobile payments, the United States is far more ahead of the curve than perceived, per TIO.

Mobile payments will account for $214 billion in gross dollar volume by 2015, up from $16 billion in 2010—a 68 percent compound annual growth rate between 2010 and 2015, per Aite Group.

“Over the past 12 to 18 months, the United States has begun to move closer to a tipping point that will lead to the popularization of mobile payments,” Mr. Shahbazi said. “Factors laying the foundation for mobile payments to grow in coming years include rapid consumer adoption of smartphones, carriers’ and handset manufacturers’ adoption of NFC chips, consumers’ continued embrace of mcommerce and a nationwide increase in mobile banking adoption.

“Practically no segment will be left behind—in fact, each one of the multiple categories of mobile payments defined in the report will experience double-digit growth,” he said. “We believe our customers should be looking at mobile to determine how it will influence the way their customers can, want or need to interact with them.”

Final Take
Mr. Shahbazi