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CyberCash tests online payments

CyberCash will run a pilot program that lets customers of a New Jersey utility company pay their bills over the Internet.

CyberCash will run a pilot program that lets selected customers of a New Jersey utility company pay their bills over the Internet starting in February.

Dubbed PayNow, the secure electronic check service trial will be used in partnership by Princeton Telecom, a consumer payment-processing company, and PSE&G, a the largest utility company in the state with 2.2 million customers.

A similar pilot between Electronic Funds and Datacorp and Suffolk County Water Company in New York state is also planned to launch next month, according to Richard Crone, vice president of CyberCash.

Customers can register for PayNow with PSE&G, and then pay their monthly bill on the company's Web site using their personal checking account.

Customers' bank accounts are linked to the site via a "digital debit card," which is protected by a password and encryption technology administered by CyberCash. Customers log on, call up their statement, and pay the bill. The money is then directed to the merchant's bank account, and electronically recorded by accounting. The debit shows up on customers' monthly bank statements like a regular paper check.

Although New Jersey's share of Net users is not as big as states such as California and New York, CyberCash says it wants to work with companies that are willing to plunge into online payment systems.

"A good slice of the PSE&G customers are expected to be Internet users," Crone said today.

In addition to PayNow, CyberCash currently processes credit card payments for Web sites and offers a form of electronic cash called CyberCoin, designed for purchases under $10.

The company also has software to handle online payments for buyers, Web storefronts, and banks that process credit card transactions. A public company since last year, its stock is now trading near its low since Hambrecht & Quist, an investment bank that brought the company public, said CyberCash wouldn't hit its revenue goals because Internet commerce has grown more slowly than anticipated.