Google is once again trying to make the email experience a much less, well, annoying thing. Th search company is developing a new feature for Gmail that will allow you to receive and pay for bills while never leaving your inbox, it's claimed.
According to Re/code, the upcoming service is called Pony Express. It's supposed to not only bolster Gmail, but also rival current bill-pay systems for existing utility companies. Thus, instead of having to go to a telecom company's website to complete a payment, for instance, you can get an email that your bill is due and pay for it with Pony Express in Gmail.
Pony Express, which might be a codename, is scheduled to kick off in the fourth quarter of this year. By launching Pony Express, Google would also be able to collect your financial data, such as credit card bills and payment history, and thus potentially expand into new business centered around personal finance or lending. Such data might even help with advert-targeting.
You can expect many critics to voice privacy concerns, if that's the case. It's not clear yet what Google has in mind, including if it plans to generate revenue directly from Pony Express, but Re/code said leaked documents have revealed consumers must provide their personal details, such as name, address, and Social Security number, just to verify their identity during sign up.
Google is partnering with third-party vendors that will not only verify your identity, but also print and mail out bills on behalf of service providers, telecom companies, and utilities. Once a consumer is verified, he or she will start receiving bills through Gmail or Google's Inbox app. They'll also be able to pay a bill right via Pony Express using their bank account or debit card.
Pony Express will also allow consumers to share or split a bill with another Gmail user. Another feature will serve up customer service contact information for any given bill. With these types of built-in features, we can imagine Pony Express luring consumers away from rival apps and services, such as Check, which Intuit bought last year for $360 million.
It's thought that Google Wallet might be the payment system powering Pony Express, but that hasn't been confirmed.
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