Digital mail service to be launched
NZ Post will launch a free "digital post service", YouPost, this year to let people view, manage and pay bills online and receive some mail electronically.
The initiative comes six years after NZ Post pulled the plug on its eBill service which also let people view and pay bills online, because of a lack of uptake. EBill was launched with a fanfare in 1999 and attracted support from 21 utilities and other billers but had only 14,500 users when it closed.
NZ Post's digital head, Simone Iles, said YouPost was designed to handle mail-outs as well as bills and she believed it would be different this time round.
YouPost would have more bells and whistles, including iPhone and Android app versions, and would better integrate with utilities' existing systems, she said.
She believed demand for such services had also increased since eBill closed, as more people had gone online.
"We are 10 years on and people's expectations of being able to deal with businesses in a digital way have moved on," she said.
YouPost users will set up an account with a username and password, register their home address and any other properties they are responsible for and list their desired payment methods.
They will then be able to logon to receive, manage, store and pay bills from multiple providers, and to receive digital copies of other mail from utilities in a separate mail box.
Bills will be accessible for up to eight years and a free one gigabyte "electronic vault" will let users backup documents such as legal documents and warranties and set reminders of when things like passports, drivers' licences, credit cards and vehicle warrants of fitness were due to expire.
Iles said NZ Post later planned to open up the system so small businesses could also use it to send bills and mail to customers.
NZ Post had signed up several major "foundation customers" and was testing the system internally ahead of a pre-Christmas launch.
The service will be free to consumers and paid for by organisations that use it to send bills and mail.
Iles would not reveal how its charges would compare with the rates they currently paid for services such as managed mail. "There is a rapid and irreversible shift from standard letter communication to digital messaging and YouPost is targeting that expanding segment of the market," NZ Post said in an explanatory document.
Physical mail volumes had fallen 20 per cent in the past 10 years and would drop at least another 20 per cent in the next five years, it said.
About 12 per cent of New Zealanders had set up their bills to be paid through direct debit. YouPost would cater for them as well as for people who needed to more closely monitor their cash flow, Iles said. Fairfax NZ