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Pony Express to let you pay bills via Gmail

Barry Collins
25 Mar 2015
Some Money
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Google to launch system that lets you pay bills directly from your Gmail inbox

Google is working on a new payments system - dubbed Pony Express - which will allow you to pay household bills via Gmail. The system is designed to let customers settle bills directly from their inbox, without first having to visit the company's website. 

Pony Express - which is possibly only a codename and may have to be rebranded if it's rolled out in the Cockneyfied areas of London - will retain the user's payment details. Once a user is authenticated, they can start to receive bills from utilities, insurance firms and other companies who agree to be part of Google's scheme, according to a report on Re/code, who were shown screenshots of the proposed service. 

Bills go to a specific Pony Express folder in Gmail, so that they're not lost in the influx of spam, Twitter alerts and photos of the family BBQ that engulf the average email inbox. Payments can be made by clicking on a button in the bill and confirming the amount - there's no need to enter credit card details, login information or any other personal data. 

The service could be regarded as a win-win for utilities and consumers. For the billing company, there are no obstacles in the way of customers paying their bills, allowing them to pay instantly from their smartphone if they wish. Likewise, consumers don't have the hassle of remembering or storing login details for different companies, and can scan all of their bills in one place (provided the system gains widespread support). 

Google will almost certainly take a cut on the bills, a price the billing companies may be prepared to wear if it reduces the administration costs of chasing overdue payments from customers. The service could also be built into Google Now, with reminders when bill payments are due.

Google isn't the first company to attempt unified electronic billing. At least two US startups have tried and failed, but Google has the huge advantage of scale - it already operates the inboxes of hundreds of millions of people around the world and has the financial resources to market such a service. 

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