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AOL, Intuit Plan Online Bill-Paying Service

Added: (Wed Nov 24 1999)

Pressbox (Press Release) - By Eric Auchard

NEW YORK (Reuters) - America Online Inc. (NYSE:AOL - news), the dominant provider of consumer Internet services, and Intuit Inc. (NasdaqNM:INTU - news), the financial services software company, said on Tuesday they would offer an online service for paying household bills early next year.

The companies said the new bill-management service would provide consumers with a simple way to receive, view, track and pay both electronic and traditional paper-based bills online, eliminating the tedium of check-writing and mailing bills.

Intuit, known to millions of consumers for its Quicken home finance software, would become the exclusive provider of the bill tracking and payment service beginning in early 2000.

The AOL-Intuit bill-paying system would be offered to the nearly 20 million members of AOL's online service and AOL.com, a Web link to the online service -- significantly boosting the potential U.S. audience of electronic bill payers.

"Everyone has to pay bills, and this new offering will simplify the process by allowing members to receive and pay their bills from one location, and view their billing history to track expenses," Bob Pittman, AOL's president and chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Intuit's latest pact caps a streak of Internet deals in recent weeks that has led the Mountain View, Calif.-based company's shares to rocket 82 percent higher in the last month. Following the online bill pact, Intuit topped 46, before easing to 44-1/16, up 2-3/16 on the day on the Nasdaq stock market, a record closing high.

Shares of AOL closed up 2-5/8 at 83-3/4 on the New York Stock Exchange, after adjusting for a two-for-one stock split of the company's shares that became effective on Tuesday.

Separately, AOL said CompuServe, its low-priced Internet access service, had agreed with Net2Phone Inc. (NasdaqNM:NTOP - news), a provider of Internet-based telephone services, to a two-year, multimillion-dollar pact in which CompuServe will promote Net2Phone phone cards to its U.S. members.

Shares of Net2Phone jumped more than 18 percent to 76-1/2 in early trading Tuesday on news of that deal. The stock later subsided somewhat to close at 66-3/4, up 3-13/16 on the Nasdaq. By allowing both electronic and 'hard copy' bill payments, the AOL and Intuit service distinguishes itself from existing services, which allow payment either of electronic bills or scanned paper bills, or require consumers to enter payment amounts themselves.

With the new service, consumers can view their bills, transfer funds from their existing bank account and then hit a button on their computer screen to have payments made.

The companies are still seeking to decide whether billers such as utilities or credit card companies would be asked to foot the bill for the service or whether customers themselves would pay a fee, a spokesman for America Online said.

Jupiter Communications has forecast that the number of households using online bill-paying services will grow to 18 million by 2003 -- 10 times as many as use such services today.

An Intuit spokeswoman said the bill-paying system works with 18 billing services from companies such as CheckFree Corp. (NasdaqNM:CKFR - news), in which Intuit holds a 20 percent stake, and office equipment maker Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE:PBI - news).

CheckFree gained 2-11/16 to close at 63-11/16 on the Nasdaq stock market, while Pitney Bowes gained 7/16 to 47-15/16 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The new service builds on an existing publishing and commerce alliance between AOL and Intuit. Since 1998, Intuit has been the primary source of original programming for the Personal Finance Web Channel on AOL.com.

In addition, America Online said its recently acquired MovieFone theater ticketing service had agreed to a deal with United Artists Theater Circuit, one of the largest U.S. theater chains, that will make MovieFone the exclusive advance ticket provider for UA theater seats over the telephone or Web.

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