Need more proof that monopolies are bad business? Just try to pay a utility bill online sometime. I have just gotten through attempting to pay my cable, gas, and electric bills online. Exactly none of them offered what I would consider a minimally competent site. The exact problems varied, but there was one that was common across the three. Every single one required registration before they’d take my money:
By contrast, non-monopoly sites like Office Depot have long since learned that registration is an optional step they shouldn’t let get in the way of completing a sale. But the utility companies? Either they hire developers who are distinctly behind the state of the art, or they just don’t care because you have to pay them, or both.
How easy should it be to pay a utility bill online? It’s a form with about four or five fields, no more:
- Account number
- Credit Card Number
- Expiration Date
- Name on Credit Card
- Amount to pay (this one could even be autofilled based on the account number.)
Unlike an online store, they shouldn’t need to ask for a shipping address. Maybe they need a billing address (though that should default to the service address) or the CVV2 code, but utility bills are unlikely to attract the same sort of fraud that online stores do, so I’m not sure even that’s necessary.
They absolutely don’t need:
- Your e-mail address
- A username
- A password
- Service address
- CAPTCHA (They really think someone’s going to set up a bot to autopay utility bills?)
- The city where your mother was born. (No I’m not making that up. Cox really wanted that piece of information.)
Account number, minimal credit card (or debit card) info, amount to pay. That’s all.