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Pay your bills the easy way!
Feb 11, 2002 12:11 PM 5713 Views
(Updated Feb 11, 2002 09:10 PM)

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I hate paying bills! The very thought of sitting down amidst piles of bills, receipts, check books, trash and a hundred other papers makes me go sick with repulsion. We have, for long been subjected to this drudgery by our ever-friendly public sector utility service providers. On the other hand, what if you had the option of sitting in front of your PC in the comfort of your home/office and manage all your bills with the click of a mouse button? What if the whole process of paying your bills was not an embittering chore, but almost fun? You’d love to go for it, won’t you?


Billjunction.com, an initiative of ICICI Ventures, a network company of ICICI, one of the country’s premier Financial Institutions, is one such facility which offers the convenience of paying utility bills online. It currently offers the facility across 8 cities in India - Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Ahmedabad and spans more than 50-60 different utility service providers. The site offers three packages at nominal charges of about Rs. 5 per transaction. But they are all not available at the afore-mentioned 8 cities, please check the website for more details pertaining to your city.


How does it work?




  1. You first need to register with Billjunction.com to receive bills and make online payments. The process is fairly simple and does not take more than 5-10 minutes. The first screen seeks the mandatory details like name, address, phone numbers, e-mail ID, login name and password, etc. The second screen asks for details of your existing bank account (there’s no need to open an account with ICICI Bank) like accountholders name, bank account number, MICR code (physically double check this 9 digit code at the bottom of the cheque leaf, the MICR codes for some banks may be wrong on the website, as was in my case) etc. The third screen asks for the Bank and branch name where the holder has an account and which he/she wishes to use for making the payments in future. The company then dispatches a set of documents to your mailing address. These documents comprise of a Bank Mandate (essentially a document that you have a numbered account in that particular branch and that it would be debited on a specific request provided by billjunction towards paying your bills). The whole processing takes about 2-3 weeks.




  2. After registering, login to your account and from the menu provided, select your billers and payees (like VSNL, MTNL, Water and Electricity Board, mobile service provider, etc.) from whom you wish to receive your bills electronically and have the option of making online payments.




  3. Billjunction then informs these billers that you’ve signed up with it for making online payments and requests them to send your bills to it. Thereafter, each time your biller raises a bill, Billjunction will present it to you online and inform the new bill arrival through an email. Rest assured, your biller/payee will continue to send you the regular paper bill as before. You can review your bill details online, decide and authorise when and how much to pay and select the bank account (in case you’ve given the mandate for more than 1 account) from which you wish to make the payment. Billjunction then processes the payment request and debits it from your bank account as per your instructions (it takes about 5-6 days from the time you give the payment instructions till the time it is debited from your bank account). Once your payment has been received by the biller/payee, billjunction confirms the successful completion of the payment through email and file the bill electronically for future reference. Its as simple as that!






What about online security?


Internet security has improved considerably these days and crores of rupees are being transacted each year online. The unique logon ID and password set by you at the time of registration validate the connection to a secure server. The site also stipulates that users use Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above and Internet Explorer 4.0 or above as they incorporate the latest security updates. This ensures that all data is authenticated and encrypted by the Netscape Enterprise Server, keeping your personal data safe as it transits the cyber space. A major comfort factor here is that there are no ''cookies'' (which is how most hackers hack into accounts) created on your computer to establish your identity. Instead the service creates a random session ID which ''times out'' after 10 minutes of inactivity. Cool, uh?


Even in the unlikely even of a smart hacker getting through all the security layers, the best he can do is to get your name, address and bank account (number only, not the amount) details. He can’t do a damn thing in terms of debiting your bank account because there is no link to your bank account whatsoever. Moreover, the mandate is specifically given by you to your bank to credit the bill proceeds only to billjunction.com and not to any other account. The site is also certified by Verisign Inc., one of the world’s leading certifying authorities for Website security. So its absolutely safe.


What are the advantages of using billjunction.com to make online bill payments?




  1. Convenience unlimited - The site covers all major utility services and more are being added in due course. You therefore have the convenience of paying all or most of your bills at a single pace (online!) without having to run individually around each of their payment counters. The best part is that you can leave instructions for payment of your bills anytime - 24 hours a day!




  2. No obtuse paperwork - while you continue to receive your normal paper bills/statements, you can simply file them away. There is an online archive that allows generation of customised reports for every payment made in the last 12 months. The offline archive stores all records of your payments for the last 3 years. You can schedule payment dates for any account, get custom reports of all your account activities, get status updates on your accounts and get an at-a-glance overview of your entire account.




  3. No new Bank account - You can continue using your existing and trusted bank account to make the payments, however obscure and tucked away in a non-descript galli as it may be. No headaches of opening a new bank account and getting involved in all that cumbersome documentation again.




  4. No tensions - Regular e-mail reminders help you keep track of due dates and up-coming payments well before time. There is also the option of manually authorising payments or authorising the site to do it manually (by setting an upper limit) using the Auto-Pay option.






My experience


I’ve been using this service for the last 5-6 months and have personally found it to be extremely convenient. The service staff were helpful even going to the extent of calling me up and inquiring whether I had begun using the service and suggesting that I approach them in case of any problems.


Go ahead and sign up in case you haven’t already...you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!


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