Now thrifty consumers can check out the competition at Lowermybills.com, a new site that lists the rates for a wide range of monthly services.
Lowermybills.com has rates from about 1,000 companies representing telecommunication, financial and utility services that range from gas and electric bills to home mortgage rates. Customers can search by ZIP code and sign up for a new service online.
So far, Net start-ups in the services business have addressed only a few markets at a time. For example, Essential.com, which raised $75 million earlier this year, promises consumers the best rate on their utilities and phone service.
"(Lowermybills.com is) recognizing a trend in the consumer market of short-term contracts and comparison shopping. (Searching easily for the best prices) couldn't be done before," said Karl Jessen, director of The Yankee Group, a Boston-based research firm.
Recent deregulation in the electric power and natural gas industry has not only confused consumers but it has also given rise to entrepreneurs vying for a piece of an estimated $330 billion market in the United States, according to the Yankee Group.
Lowermybills founder Matt Coffin says his company has an advantage over competitors such as Essential.com because Lowermybills has a wide range of categories covering most monthly services. Next year, the company plans to add a section on taxes.
"Consumers want convenience--it's the breadth of the product that works," Coffin said.
Seema Williams, an analyst at research firm Forrester Research, contends that the company may have a difficult time sustaining the kind of traffic it needs.
"How often do people change their home mortgage? Not that often," said Williams, who suggested that the company might do well partnering with another comparison shopping service.
"There are a 101 different ways to shop for a service. The challenge here is getting enough products under one scope to matter," Williams said.
Until now, consumers wanting to save money on such services as long distance would have to contact a bevy of providers and compare rates in their area. Because bills make up most of consumers' monthly outflow, negotiating the best price on services could save thousands of dollars annually, according to industry watchers.
By referring customers to a new service, Lowermybills.com receives a commission from the service provider, which can be a one-time fee, ranging between 20 percent to 50 percent of the service, or can be an ongoing commission of up to 15 percent of the customer's monthly bill.
Lowermybills.com is introducing its credit card service today and plans to offer a customer newsletter in the coming months. The company is launching a $2.5 million ad campaign on Tuesday.
Coffin got the idea for the company last April after he suffered from "sticker shock" on his new home mortgage. He registered the domain name and sought venture funding.
Lowermybills, based in Los Angeles, closed a $4 million first round of funding with Santa Monica, Calif.-based eCompanies in December.