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The Internet

Canadian Post Office Moves Online in a Big Way 67

jeremyw writes "CBC News reports that beginning in November, Canadians will be able to receive mail and pay their bills at an Electronic Post Office. Although it is already possible to pay bills through many banks online, this is a new level of integration and convenience. I think this is an excellent example of an organization "reinventing" itself in order to survive and remain relevant in the near future."
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Canadian Post Office Moves Online in a Big Way

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  • Does anyone know what they're using for the system infrastructure (Server farms, EBPP suite, Database engine)?

    As for EBPP itself, it is a HUGE cost savings for the biller, as they send their billing database to the EBPP provider or to their own EBPP system, and then all the bills are available online, at which point the customers can pay directly online via credit card or bank drafts.

    Some makers of EBPP software suites include Novazen [novazen.com], Netscape [intraware.com], who have direct database integration, and eDocs and BlueGill, whose software essentially amounts to a print-stream parser.
  • *next* year? meine guete!
    Man, you guys are waaay behind!

    You guys still watching Dynasty in prime time over there? Or "California-Clan" or whatever the hell it was renamed? That was scary to see...

    :-)
  • >You can't send or receive normal Internet emailIf your penfriend from Canada is also signed up with EPO, they have the option of sending you the message using that instead.

    The subscription form is open to US residents too.

    Additional features:
    * You can decide who can and can't send you mail.
    * When you receive mail from someone you know who that person is. That give you some guarantee the mail is not forged.
    (I guess you can always register through a fake name at some physical dropbox...)

    Although not revolutionary at all, I think it's pretty neat.

    Plus Canada has some laws about privacy, and the Privacy Act indeed guarantee the promises make about not doing datamining, etc.

    Just my CAN$0.03

    Janus


  • (damn, my comment got cut in half, here is a complete repost)
    |You can't send or receive normal Internet email|

    They mention some 'coming soon' features; one of them is digital signing and use of public keys... I expect that once they have that up & running they will make some bridge from/to SMTP only sending/accepting properly authetified/encrypted emails. (Granted that's speculation, but that would make sense.)

    |If your penfriend from Canada is also signed up with EPO, they have the option of sending you the message using that instead. |

    The subscription form is open to US residents too.

    Additional features:
    * You can decide who can and can't send you mail.
    * When you receive mail from someone you know who that person is. That give you some guarantee the mail is not forged.
    (I guess you can always register through a fake name at some physical dropbox...)

    Although not revolutionary at all, I think it's pretty neat.

    Plus Canada has some laws about privacy, and the Privacy Act indeed guarantee the promises make about not doing datamining, etc.

    Just my CAN$0.03

    Janus


  • by Anonymous Coward
    USPS already has its 11 digit zip system online, look up any address in a minute with any browser.

    The drop shipping schedules are online, and can be scheduled there.

    Most of the address reading hardware runs on Linux. Why don't you know that?

    I can submit a bulk mailing to the USPS on Monday in New Jersey and have checks in my mailbox from California by Thursday. Dependably.

    Nonprofits can bulk mail for an average of less than a dime a letter, with the miracle of CASS certification.

    The USPS is a model of efficiency. These last couple of years, they've been a pleasure to deal with. Now if someone could whack Caldera upside the head...
  • The big difference is that I trust the post office and the canadian privacy laws over AOL any time. Also I expect the governement and universities to make all kind of forms fillable and sendable over the EPO

    I hope there will be some bridge to SMTP once they have the public key and digital signature feature setup
  • |Also, just out of curiosity, how exactly ARE Canadian residents going to be punished for late payments if the server goes down.|

    They won't be. When you send your paimenet it's timestamped. So even if the sever goes down after you send it, there is a proof you did.
    Now if the server is down when you are supposed to get a bill via EPO... well since it's down the bill won't be able to be sent that way, so you won't be late.

    It's really not any different than if the PO is on strike (which happens now and then)... they can't fault you for being late if you don't receive the invoice.
  • You are correct. They offer nothing that can't be done through online banking and in fact have fewer services available than the online bank I currently use.
    I don't understand how they expect to generate revenue from this, I mean at least with normal mail they charge postage right?
    I also find it silly that they are going to snail mail my password to me. Now that's efficient!
  • I agree that the result (and probably intent) of this is that "It allows companies to bill their customers cheaper." I can't remember Canada Post ever providing any innovation in their services targeted at individuals. I think they realised that individual people rarely use letter-mail to communicate with other individuals anymore, instead it is individuals communicating with organisations and organisations communicating with other organisations.

    I'm sceptical that this will be a successful service, as they are attempting to provide a middleman service using a medium that, I'm sure you will agree, has an excellent track record in removing burdomsome middlemen. (As an example, think of how easy it is to get information on buying a car from the Net, as opposed to from a salesman). Some companies are already providing methods of getting your bills without mailing them to you. Bell Canada, for example, offers an e-bill [webapp.bell.ca] (their name) in PDF format. In using this, you get your bill directly from Bell, and pay through your regular direct banking method. No middle man required and Bell trades the postage cost for the development cost of the system. The customer gets the benefit of dealing with only two bone-headed, customer-hostile companies rather than three. (The phone company, the bank and the post-office - there's a combination to ruin anybody's day.)

    The benefits that I can see for customers are: as someone stated above, consolidation, and the perception of reliability. Some customers will pay to have everything in one place. Hell, I pay for convenience. Some will pay because they trust Canada Post to get it there. I don't.

    Bell Canada (and probably other Stentor companies) also offers a competing service [www.bell.ca] based on their screenphones. Companies can sign up to use that as a delivery medium, and most of the telephone banking companies (not mine however) already are integrated into the system.

    My conclusion: they are offering a service with very little innovation, that offers an unnecessary middleman service, and that other people can do better. What should Canada Post be doing instead? See Effugas' comment "Postal Services: The Ultimate Escrow Architecture" [slashdot.org] - that's what I'd like to see them offer.

  • Hasn't paying bills online been possible for a long time?

    At least in Sweden... =)

    /SteelhawK

  • by Weramona ( 23619 ) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @01:00AM (#1638432) Homepage
    How is this going to work? Is the mail scanned into some sort of pdf or bitmap type format, then sent to your e-mail? That's the only thing I can think of, and it's wrong for so many reasons I'm not sure where to start... Maybe it will only work for messages sent online, which makes it no different from e-mail, or a hundred other services and protocols.
  • Who ever thought such a big ship could make such a sharp turn with such a small rudder?
  • by JoeShmoe ( 90109 ) <askjoeshmoe@hotmail.com> on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @01:09AM (#1638434)
    I see a lot of similarities between this new "Electronic Post Office" and AOL...

    1) Proprietary service...in order to get full benefits of all the features, you need to send or receive mail from other EPO customers.

    2) Real world interaction...AOL used to have an option (I don't know if it still works) where an e-mail could be sent snail mail or faxed to the real world for an additional fee.

    3) Online banking...looks like you link this thing up to your bank account, hide behind 128 bit encryption, and let EPO suck money out and send checks to creditors. Already available from most major banks ay keywords like: Wells Fargo

    The only major difference is that they promise "no data mining" while everyone knows that AOL will sell every scrap of information they have on you. Maybe the EPO is government funded thus not dependant on advertising revenue?

    Don't impress me at all. Yet another site that requires you to commit everything to get the major benefits.

    Just my impression after briefly flipping through their "Tour".

    - JoeShmoe

    -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
  • Having actually been to the post office and having seen the people (read: bureacratic moron class A) I would pay the extra $15 for Fed-Ex rather than have one of these nitwits open my mail and attempt to scan it.

  • Maybe I stated myself incorrectly. As the victim of a recent robbery, I understand how fragile paper checks are. Yes, I was able to put a stop payment on it, but it was an IRS check, so there's no telling when I'll see it reissued. So, in a lot of ways, I am for this change (even if I show it poorly). If our government were set up similarly, then my account would simply have been credited, thus never needing a check, thus never having had it stolen.

    Another aspect of this tho, is how many mailmen are going to lose their jobs to techies? I mean, surely they can't migrate someone from a postal courier position into an email administrator. At least, I hope they can't. Not with my money.

    -I9mm-
  • Okay. First and foremost, I'm just a tad bit confused. Is the only method of online mail delivery related strictly to bills/payments? or does it extend to normal mail. I thought the article rather vague.

    If they ARE truly thinking about delivering mail online, then how are they going to get mail online is probably the biggest question. If it's sent online, then it's really no different than email already in place. However, if it is scanned and then sent to the receiver, then that has to be a HUGE breach of privacy. In order for someone to scan, then they must first open right? (Or did I miss an article on how to NOT open mail before reading?)

    Also, just out of curiosity, how exactly ARE Canadian residents going to be punished for late payments if the server goes down. Given the proper scenario (ie, server goes down for a week due to Hurricane Gates, and bill was sent online to begin with), then the user positively COULDN'T pay the bill on time, through no fault of their own. I dunno, just seems a little sketchy to me. Not enough paper trail for government work I guess.

    -I9mm-
  • Next year in Germany, you'll even be able to buy stock online at the post office.

    Nice to see the North Americans catching up...
  • Will lose a chunk to email? Too late! How many times in the past year have you written a letter to anybody on real paper? Probably very few times, if any.

    I know I haven't. Wow wait a day to have a letter sent across town, when you can email in a minute, or use ICQ or AIM and do it in a second?

    I'm sure this same thing happened when the telephone came around. "Oh, the postal service is losing money thanks to that danged old telephone thing." I can just see an old Postmaster doing that.

    --Ebunga
  • The U.S. better take note. They could easily be left behind on this one. Just as UPS and FedEX have taken a sizable chunk of the USPS's business, they could lose even more to email. Especially when companies like the aforementioned do a more efficient job than the USPS. Isn't privatization wonderful?

    ----------------

    "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." - Albert Einstein
  • Government crap online. Wow.

    Sort of makes me think of the Selective Service System in the US. For years and years, you filled out a card, and they payed postage. Starting this year, they had a newer, friendly card to fill out, and you have to PAY for the postage when you mail it. Shows you how much the US government values our lives.

    Fortunately, I went to the Selective Service web site, and found out I can register to get killed in the event of war online, for free. After I did that, I let them have my twenty bucks and some loose change (yes, my gripe was that big).

    So, for all you U.S. younger-ones out there, when you have to register for the draft, be sure to do it online, and save yourself the 22 cents your life is worth. Wait, so my life is worthless now.

    --ebunga

  • Also, just out of curiosity, how exactly ARE Canadian residents going to be punished for late payments if the server goes down. Given the proper scenario (ie, server goes down for a week due to Hurricane Gates, and bill was sent online to begin with), then the user positively COULDN'T pay the bill on time, through no fault of their own. I dunno, just seems a little sketchy to me. Not enough paper trail for government work I guess.

    You could ask the same questions about sending checks! What if the postperson drops your bill, or what if someone raids your mailbox, or what if the mail truck goes up in flames.

    OK, so the paper system might be somewhat more tested, but computer downtime can be kept track of so people might actually be better guarded against unfortunate circumstances in an online system.

    Lars
  • My thought exactly.

    How does CanPost figure that this will solve their 'people no longer pay their bills through the mail' problem? I mean, I myself, and many of my cow-orkers, already pay our bills online.

    All of the major banks in Canada have online/web banking for little or no cost (compared to price of stamp or service fee to pay at a branch).

    Heck, most people don't even get their Social Benefits and tax rebate/refund cheques mail to them any more. It's all automagically deposited into their account.

    Even on a person-to-person level some banks (i.e. TD Bank) even let you transfer money from your account directly into another person's account online.

    If the average person is techno-brave enough to try CanPost's new offerings, wouldn't they rather be doing that through their bank or trust co anyway?

    Just face it, as far as cheques and bills goes, CanPost's days are numbered. I guess it's eventually going to be just bulk packages that doesn't have to be there RSN, and personal hand-scribed letters left for them.

    And, of course, they still have the snail-SPAM market, AKA junkmail.

  • by Que_Ball ( 44131 ) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @02:05AM (#1638444)
    Basically everyone has noticed that this service doesn't have any advantages over using the services of your bank and email that you have now.

    I have to agree except for 2 minor issues that I don't think are very relevant.

    1. They offer a system where there is a return receipt on the email so that you KNOW for sure that someone has looked at it.

    2. It is a way for people without bank account access to pay their bills online. May be cheaper than your bank if you get charged a fee for paying your bills.

    Some other things I noticed about the service. I briefly checked out their legal agreement and it struck me as being fair to both parties. A rare thing in the age of blanket disclaimers that disclaim responsibility for any and all blame.

    I was also wondering how long it might be until they try to get Revenue Canada (Our IRS department) to let them have people file their returns online. That might be nice. I just found out this year that I could pay my tax bill online through my bank. The only time I ever pull my printer out of storage is to print returns once a year.

    They probably have other plans, exclusive content and junk like that for the future too.
  • I have a basic principle for evaluating all Internet projects:

    "If you can't explain what it does in one sentence, it will fail."

    I have read the linked article and looked through the epost.ca site, and I can't honestly say I'm much the wiser. The site hits you with page after page of "EPO will change the way Canadians communicate" but doesn't seem too keen to be tied down to exactly why that would be so.

    For example, click on the "What does EPO do?" link. Sounds like a helpful one, yes? "EPO puts all your mail in one place" it tells you. "No more going from Web site to Web site to pay bills, view account details and get information. Now it comes to you in your private, secure, Electronic Post Office Box". That certainly makes it much clearer, doesn't it?

    Then there's the promising-sounding "Frequently Asked Questions" link. You might expect this to answer the questions people seem to be asking here on Slashdot; questions like "Will I still get paper mail or will it be scanned in?" But instead the FAQ link gives you a huge and utterly uninteresting page full of reassurances about Y2K compliance. And only Y2K compliance; "our code-remediation strategy includes a logic-based solution known as windowing for interfaces to external partners." It will no doubt reassure Canadian taxpayers that this service, being launched as it is in late 1999, considers Y2K compliance to be "achievable". Whoopie-doo.

    Anyway, here's the Andrew Crawford Patent No-Crap Distilled and Filtered Guide to the Canadian Electronic Post Office. FX: Fanfare

    • It's basically a webmail system.
    • You can't send or receive normal Internet email
    • You can send mail to and receive from other users of the system. This includes most banks, large employers, retailers, who have already signed up.
    • You can choose to get your bank, employer, retailer, etc to send you a bill over this webmail system instead of through paper mail. The mails you get will be a standard template with your details filled in (think credit card statement) rather than a bitmap. You will have the option of settling those bills over the EPO system.
    • There is no connection with paper mail whatsoever. Companies that aren't signed up for EPO will continue to send paper. Companies that you haven't asked to get bills from over EPO will continue to send paper.
    • If your penfriend from Australia sends you a paper mail, it will continue to arrive in paper.
    • If your penfriend from Canada sends you a paper mail, it will continue to arrive in paper.
    • If your penfriend from Canada is also signed up with EPO, they have the option of sending you the message using that instead.

    So what's new here? Nothing really. It's a proprietary secure email system. The key to its success will be whether they get enough companies signed up to use it. Even then, they've failed to show any overwhelming reason why it's better than the existing email infrastructure.

    I think they're making a mistake hyping it as a replacement for paper mail when it's really not. Such merit as it has consists in making life a little easier for people who already use the Internet to check their balances etc and pay their bills by centralising everything. There aren't a huge number of people who actually do that though - and those that there are often do so because they appreciate the interactive features of being connected directly to the company's database. (Want to transfer a balance from one account to another? Or see more details of this transaction? Just click.) This kind of feature will be absent from EPO.

    But I don't think it will succeed, because the people marketing it don't seem to have any idea what it actually does.

  • >"If you can't explain what it does in one sentence, it will fail."

    Erm, yeah. Sounds like one of those Dilbert PHB sayings, on a bad day...

    They did say what it does in one or two sentences - as an animated GIF thing in the middle. And then it disappeared and was replaced by yet more crap.

    Mind you, it might be interesting to see what we Brits have to put up with [royalmail.co.uk]...
  • The article was worse than the story on the CBC news. The way I understood the news story was that this was aimed at bill payments first. The stat they gave was that 59 million bills were paid with bank machines and that means 59 million stamps not sold. They are not planning to interfere with regular mail.

    The other interesting thing from the news story was that they seemed to make no attempt to get more into the package delivery field which has boomed since more people are buying stuff online. Especially since they would be perfectly suited to do so.
  • by jflynn ( 61543 ) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @03:00AM (#1638449)
    Seems to me this is yet another portal web site, but run by a government.

    Like all portals, it could be good or bad, depending on how useful, secure, private, and reliable its services are. Off hand, I don't think this one is that bad, and they could distinguish themselves by being completely non-commercial. No ads, no plugs, no links sold to the highest bidder.
  • I was offered a position as team lead for this project back in January. As I understood the project it is meant as a significant savings for the biller. i.e. Your typical service company, cable, phone, department stores send you a bill each month through the snail mail.
    Under the new service if a customer is signed up to the EPO, the bill is sent electronically. This saves the biller on the cost of printing and paper, the billee can electronically store their bills and pay them via the email. The service is apparently also available for typical mail which would be scanned in and sent (they were a bit unclear on the details of this during the interviews). It sounded like an interesting project. The technology for the project was being purchased from a Boulder company, but I can't recall the name. I was supposed to go down to Boulder and document the technology being developed, come back to Toronto and oversee the continued development of the technology to fit the EPO requirements.
  • As one who has lived in Canada, and therefore has some experience with the round robin of union strikes which has long plagued Canada Post, I have to wonder whether this turn of events will provoke yet another strike.

    For those who haven't had the pleasure, a postal strike is truly a delight -- no junk mail. On the other hand, paying bills is tough, and creditors expect you to do so in a timely fashion, without using the mail.
  • More information on the project is available here [cebra.com].
  • I'd like to have a company provide me a postal address, scan all my mail (automated) and send it encrypted and signed via email to me.

    If this is done by a normal postal service, it could even be for free, because they save the transportation cost.
  • In Canada, you are responsible for making sure your bills are paid on time, even if payment is made by mail, and the mail service is down (i.e. carrier strike).

    Since most utility bills and credit card bills can be paid at banks, this isn't much of a problem, though.

    Of course, the idea that you pay according to someone's preferred method (i.e.mail) and it's YOUR problem if that method fails, still strikes me as repugnant, but Canadians are generally sheep.

    The biggest practical problem with the status quo is having to make payment (say, at a bank) when a cheque is already in the mail -- too often both cheques get cashed (stop payments are expensive), and, in some cases, accounts wind up overdrawn until the mess gets straigtened out.

    The better utilities will generally give people a break during a postal strike, but they don't have to.
  • While I guess it's cool that post offices are starting to wake up to the competition posed by the internet, I haven't quite figured out what I'd want to use a post office's internet services for ...
    My bills are automagically paid by the bank. E-mail is free. Certificate verification is handled reasonably well by private companies, and if I'm going to be really concerned about security, the answer is something along the lines of PGP ...
    What does an online post office have to offer that isn't already offered better somewhere else? This may be a case of an ancient dinosaur responding just a little bit too late.
  • Please tell us more about bill payment in Germany. I'm told checks are not the norm, which is one reason Intuit has no market over there. Most bills are settled directly, in person at the post office, correct?

    My guess about EPO is that Canada wants to emulate an on-line version of the Eurpean model [that N.American /.ers are ignorant of]. Sure we have electronic banking over here - and its a near total failure in the market. So bills are still mostly payed via checks and bills presented via snail mail. Hence the market opportunity that Canadian banks + P.O. are making a play for.

    If Germans already make use of similar services, perhaps you or some oter reader can post or link information for us check writing N.A. troglodytes?

  • This is a government run project. Whether it fails or succeeds isn't really relevant, since it's tax money paying for it anyway. Funny we can afford this but we can't increase funding to our health programs or pay our nurses salaries. Go figure.

    Maybe they could try something other people aren't already doing better, though, I do agree with you.

    For example, sending snail-mail online. You write the letter, the post office on the other end receives it (or maybe the main post office in wherever, ontario (i'm guessing, since just about anything big and federal is in ontario, unless it's the mint)), prints it, then sends it to the appropriate party. They could charge a small amount for the service, it would be faster than the standard 7 day waiting period, and it would offer a link between the "online" world and the "not online" world. Well, at least in Canada :)

    Either way, it's good that they're admitting defeat to the internet age.
  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @03:37AM (#1638461) Homepage
    What Canada Post is doing is "interesting"--authenticated email, hard traces, government backing--what we've yet to see is if they'll do it right. This is one of the first major deployments of a government-backed end-user market infrastructure, and its successes and difficulties will end up studied for quite some time.

    However, while it borrows the imprimateur of the government, I'm not sure how much it actually exploits the vast resources governments as a whole spawn, and postal services in particular require.

    The moment I read this story, I imagined that Canada Post might be facilitating convenient and efficient person to person transactions. Checks and money orders are incredibly inefficient, and the annoyance of compounded delays that permeate Online Auctions such as Ebay(send slip of paper, wait for slip of paper to arrive, wait for slip of paper to be converted to slips of paper redeemable anywhere for goods, wait for product to be mailed in response, hope nothing goes wrong) are just waiting for an efficient infrastructure to replace them--preferably one that could grow and deploy at the same impressive rate everything else online has sprouted.

    I'm not expecting miracles. But postal services already support much of the (arguably inefficient, but definitely interesting) mass point-to-point package distribution system that's keeping Ebay in business. Through money orders, they're already directly involved in the actual exchanging of currency. Even the much maligned(and extraordinarily expensive) C.O.D. Delivery remains a strong historical precursor to what we're going to see the delivery person become.

    As more transactions occur online, many of the functions the cashier once performed(everything from synchronizing the deal to acting as a buffer between management and the customer) will become shunted effectively into the delivery architecture. Deals agreed to via a Canada-post style secure email trail will have transactional paths drawn directly from one private citizen account to anothers--no cash to demand; your signature for delivery becomes your signature validating your willingness to pay.

    Escrowed delivery and rock-solid paper trails are things that any of the major delivery providers can provide(and almost certainly will try), but I honestly think that government post has a serious advantage in this market--when it comes to designing systems that meet legal standards, being part of the organization that wrote those standards is both a PR coup and a legal benefit.

    Of course, there are many, many issues I've glossed over, but I'd like to hear what others have to say about this.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
    http://www.doxpara.com


  • If you any of you live in Canada and know anything about Canada Post, you will know that they received computers in each of their offices approximately 2 years ago. They have also since had to replace them all with new machines thanks to an uninformed recomendation from their "tech department". Apparently the software they were running wasn't compatible with the motherboards they installed across the country. A quick replacement of each machine and....well, it still didn't work. Canadian dollars hard at work. Given Canada Posts history, I wouldn't be too eager to load their web page for anything other than a random link. And since I heard a rumor a while back stating that Canada Post was wanting to tax every email delivered to and from Canada (just a rumor) because of the great revenue loss they had acquired, I would be cautious of this major step. Of course, I could be completely wrong and they are going to run a legitimate business.
  • The important thing is not that one can now pay bills online, but one can pay bills online *through Canada Post*. A little off-topic, but if CP can offer levels of service equal to private parcel couriers for delivering packages, the decline in snail mail won't be too much of a problem. After all, online orders still need to be delivered.
  • I was also wondering how long it might be until they try to get Revenue Canada (Our IRS department) to let them have people file their returns online. That might be nice. I just found out this year that I could pay my tax bill online through my bank. The only time I ever pull my printer out of storage is to print returns once a year.

    It's called efiling and I've been doing it since it came out. The govmn't just mails me stickers instead of the forms, which is kind of clueless since I send it off to Revenue Canada electronically.

    Doesn't the IRS provide that?

  • Not everyone can efile. I know that under last years rules I couldn't. (Beleive me I tried but all my inquiries came up with you should have received instructions in you packet if you are allowed to efile. So all I got were the stickers and then envelope. The rest I had to print out.) I would like to see them open the rules up a bit so I could efile. The program I use for taxes is capable...
  • There is a similar service in the US, too, but it isn't as well known.

    At PayMyBills [paymybills.com], you get a new permanent snail-mail address (only for bills), they scan in your bill (PDF) and also enter the relevant info into forms (so lynx _does_ work). All you do is enter the amount you wish to pay and click.

    When you first sign up, they give you all the forms your bank will need (via postal mail) to set up the link with PayMyBills. And they let you issue 'electronic checks' without having a bill, too, so you can pay off that loan to your uncle without him needing to send you a bill... Oh, and they send you an e-mail to the address of your choice both when you get a new bill, and when it becomes close to being due.

    And they let you try it out for free -- sign up, pay up to 3 bills per month with no charge, then up to 25 (IIRC) is about $9 per month. And all you need to do to become a paying customer is send them more than 3 bills.

    I've been using the free account for a bit, and I'm pleased. Yah, it's a comercial outfit, but they do have a great privacy statement, and their contract terms are fair to both sides. And since my bank doesn't have online banking... *braces for laughter* well, it works great for me.

    Posted by the Proteus


  • Electronic Bill Presentation is a hot topic in e-commerce right now. Sure, every bank has at least one way to pay on-line, and they generally work well; but getting the bills into the hands of the customer generally requires the use of snail mail. If that bill presentation moves on-line and CPC is not involved, they lose big-time, hence this initiative.

    I'm not sure what to think-- it seems like a good idea (on-line presentation from an established name, use of standard protocols (http), access from any 'Net connection) but the implementation sounds like it leaves a lot to be desired. Many of the advantages of Internet e-mail (the mail is pushed to me so I don't have to *login* to a web site to get it, I can mail anyone, etc) are not there. Given the choice of receiving bills via an EPOB or via traditional 'Net e-mail, I think I'd prefer e-mail.

    Nonetheless, being Candian, I have the chance to try this out... which I am doing. We'll see...
  • This is how it appears to work:

    You create a new Canada Post e-mail account. This account is associated with your postal address. You are then given a list of Commercial mail senders that might like to send you mail. Any specified commercial mail you receive will go to your e-mail account, and not be delivered to your home.

    It's kind of a neat idea actually. The bill payment feature is just an added value. I guess it's for people who haven't discovered on-line banking yet.

    Apparently it free to create an account, receive mail, and pay bills, so I'm not sure how they plan to generate revenue.

  • Does this mean the Canadian gov't will open then scan thier snail mail? In the US that would be a federal offense. or is this something different?

  • At this point, I don't think anyone can really say where Canada Post is going to take this, especially given the seeming lack of information on their web page, but I think this service has a lot of potential.

    For example, take a situation I've been faced with recently: I'm a university student with no car living in a dorm about 20-30 mins walk away from the nearest post office that I'm aware of. I have to send money to someone elsewhere in Canada. Now, I can go to the bank (~5-10 mins away), get a money order, buy a stamp, buy an envelope, and find a way to mail letters on campus; or, I can walk all the way down to the post office, get a (slightly cheaper, IIRC) money order there, buy the stamp and envelope, and mail it. But now, if the CPC wished, we could have a third option: we know that the EPOB thing will enable you to pay at least some of your bills online, and possibly access other postal services as well. So why not have the ability to send money orders online? I can just authorize the CPC to yank X dollars out of my bank account, same as I would to pay a bill, and they deliver a money order of the appropriate amount to the address I give them.

    Maybe I'm just lazy, but I think I would prefer the third option. It could easily arrive the next day, too - the CPC could just send the order to the post office closest to the recipient of the money order, and have that post office actually print off/fill out a physical money order, put it in an envelope, and toss it into the bin for the next day's delivery. So it saves time for both sides.

    Similarly, the CPC could offer prepaid shipping on the EPOB. Right now, the CPC has a service called 'Xpresspost', which is basically in between couriers and normal surface/air mail. It's not weight-based, and you can just walk into a post office, buy the box size you want in 'regional delivery', 'national delivery', or 'international delivery' flavor. So why not sell those online? I spend a few minutes clicking and typing, and within a day or two they deliver the box to my door.

    This service could be quite useful, even above and beyond what I've mentioned above. Now, all that remains to be seen is what Canada Post will actually do with it..
  • I am a developer for NetDelivery the company that has built this system. Some of the info here is reasonably acurate. Basically the system uses a Web Browser to deliver Email over a 128 bit encryted conection. The main use for this system is to allow companies to send bills to their customers and to recieve payments eletronically. This is reffered to as EBPP (Eletronic Bill Presentment and Payment). Some of the components for doing this already exist. I have used eletronic banking in the past. I works great when the party recieving your payment is able to recieve the payment electronically. This is the case for large billers like utilities. When the party recieving the payment is not able to recieve it eletronically the bank actually prints a check and mails it. The problem with this approach is the the "reply coupon" that was in your statement is not returned with the bank generated check. The payment goes into an exception bin and may often stay there long enough that your payment is late. The system we are building will accept bills and return payments to the billers eletronically. The main benfit to billers is the expense saved in printing, and mailing out going bills and recieving, opening, and posting incoming payments. The main benefit to the end user is being able to recieve all your bills from a single website and pay them eletronically. The end user will not be charged for the service (as far as I am aware). The cost will be payed by the billers that use the system. The cost should be far lower than the cost of the current paper based system. The cost of printing, mailing, recieving, and posting payments using a paper based system is about $1.50 to $2.00. For a cable TV and water companies where bills are generally small, this is a huge portion their expenses. (of course I would not hold my breath waiting for them to lower the rates when this is adopted) Users of the system will be able to use it to send Email to other users. Because of the encrytion technology being used it will be more secure than sending a regular non-encypted Email. It may not allow the total privacy of a product like PGP since only the internet conection is actually encypted. Although security is a major priority of Canada Post it is concievable that a mail server could be hacked. It happened recently to AT&T with their HotMail servers. The USPS (United States Postal Service) is also looking to start doing this.
  • I agree, it's not revolutionary. But it may be nice and convenient.

    The way it'll work is, companies will work in conjunction with Post Canada on this. So, instead of receiving a bill through the mail, you'll get it electronically.

    The payment of bills online is nothing new, and this will not change in that respect. But the idea of receiving bills through the Internet is a nice one. It eliminates that silly piece of paper every new month, which they use to pack with ads anyway.

    But.

    I'm fine with making a payment online, directly to my institution. But I'm not sure I like this. Receiving bills online is another can of worms, because they contain a lot of private information. With bill payment, you get a bill payment number and a certain amount. That's fine. But do I want people to know what my mother's phone number is, or what channels I have on cable?

    It's a nice thought. I'm not sure people'll buy into it, because they're not the ones making the effort of delivering the mail to everyone's doorsteps. I mean, what's the difference between picking up an enveloppe in my mailbox or receiving an email? I couldn't care less. I bet many others don't. Besides, they like printed proof, so they'll probably stick to paper.

    Like I said, nice idea. Too bad it won't work.

    (And no, it doesn't cover personnal mail; well, they do offer a free email address, but we all know how secure that is.)

    "There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

  • My bank already handles my electrical, phone, gas, city tax, and credit card bills automatically.

    They're really offering little that I don't already have.

    Oh, well; our tax dollars at work. Maybe it's time to sell Canada Post and let someone with some business sense run the thing.
  • Living in Canada, and knowing Canada Post's all to familiar habit of going on strike. Question: Will Canada Post pull the plug on the server when they go on strike next. What will happen to all those transactions lost in cyberspace? Just a thought.
  • I did say I didn't see much difference between receiving my bills in the mail or receiving them electronically. I do agree paying bills online is much more convenient. My point was the reception of them didn't make much of a difference. What's the difference?

    1) Pick up bill on way inside; tear open enveloppe; logon and click a few times to pay it.

    2) Logon and receive bill by email; click a few times to pay it.

    The way I see it, not much.

    And, this system does use SSL. They would be insane not to. Not that it's that secure; I wouldn't trust standard 128-bit SSL with all of my personal information.

    "There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

The power to destroy a planet is insignificant when compared to the power of the Force. - Darth Vader

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