Local News

More Companies Prefer Automated Payments Instead Of Checks

Posted November 1, 2002

— With the economy and improved technology, companies are cutting operating costs by offering new ways to pay, but if customers continue to pay bills by check, it can cost them.

Some BTI residential customers received a letter urging them to pay their monthly bills with automated payments. The letter states if they want to pay by mail, it will cost them an extra $5 per month. Many companies prefer electronic payments because it costs much less than processing checks.

"There's nothing wrong with having people pay their bills electronically. We just need to make sure that everybody has access to the opporunity," consumer advocate Rob Schofield said.

Paying bills electronically can be tough because many people still do not have access to computers. Negative feedback from BTI customers prompted the company to cancel the $5 fee.

Officials claim the residential part of their telecommunications businsess is so small the extra charge was not worth the hassle.

BTI is not alone in testing charges for paying bills by check. State Farm Insurance charges $3 a month if customers pay their insurance bill by check. Officials say that is triple what the company charged a few months ago.

Schofield said consumers should not be penalized for paying bills by check.

"People shouldn't be placed at a disadvantage and shouldn't be paying more for the same service just because they choose to pay it in the old fashioned way," he said.

BTI is now using automated payment options and is giving a one-time, $20 credit to customers who switch. Some businesses said electronic bill paying is more secure than sending checks through the mail and does away with late charges.

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