Google to Eliminate Paper Bills using Gmail

John Lister's picture

Google is said to be planning a tool to let users receive bills via and email, then pay with a single click of a button - all without leaving their inbox. While it will be promoted as a service to benefit users, it could be part of a wider business move for Google.

Leaked screenshots reveal the service is codenamed Pony Express, though it's unknown if that will be the real name if and when it launches. The current plan is to start the service in the final quarter of 2015.

The plan isn't so much to replace existing electronic billing. Instead, Google is targeting companies which print and mail bills on behalf of other companies. Google would take the content of the bills and send it to customers by email, thereby reducing paper and postage costs. (Source:

Gmail users wanting to use the service would have to sign up by giving their name and home address, plus some form of identification number, such as a bank card or driver license. They would also add details of either a debit card or bank account.

One Button Pays The Bill

Under the system, users are able to check the details of the bill and amount, then click a button to pay instantly - rather than have to follow a link to the website of the company concerned. It doesn't appear Google will handle the money itself. Instead, it will pass on the details to a third party processor.

Google will also push a couple of other benefits with the service. It will automatically gather together all the bills in one Gmail folder, arranged to make it easy to see which bills are new, which have been paid, and which remain unpaid.

There will also be an option to ask another Gmail user to pay part of the bill. The idea here is to make it easier for roommates to split bills rather than one person pay, and then have to keep track of the amount and chase up the others for their share.

Google Gobbles Up More Data

While Google may charge a handling fee, making money directly from the 'Pony Express' may not be the main aim. Instead the target could be twofold. Firstly, by having users link their cards or bank accounts to their Google accounts, Google will be well placed to expand the range of payment types from bills to general purchases.

Secondly, Google will gain even more personal information about customer behavior beyond simply what they look at online. While it's unlikely it would be able to share this information with retailers, it might change advertisements users see while visiting websites that run the Google Adsense program. For example, if Google knows somebody is paying a high monthly fee for cable television, it might start showing them more ads for online TV services that can make it easier to 'cut the cord' and drop premium channel tiers. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Does Google's proposed service sound like it would make your life simpler? Are you concerned about providing your financial details to Google? Would such a feature persuade you to use Gmail if you don't do so already?

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (3 votes)


Dennis Faas's picture

This reminds me of when I first got my Android phone. I wanted to add some money to my Google account so I could purchase some apps via the Google Play Store. You would think the process would be straightforward, but it wasn't. I wanted to only add a specific amount of money without having Google permanently attached to my credit card or bank account for security reasons. Could I simply add credits to my account using my credit card? Absolutely not. The only way to do it was to go to an outlet (grocery store, electronic store, etc) and purchase a Google Play card. This wasn't very convenient, obviously. In the end, I caved and attached my PayPal account to fund my Google Play. Guess what happened next? My 4 year old daughter almost purchased $90 worth of game credits 5 minutes into playing a game I just purchased off of Google Play. Can you say: DANGEROUS? (I have since then disabled in-app purchases). Just goes to show you, though - Google wants direct access to your money in the guise of convenience.

Jim's picture

It's true that linking financial information to any online account can be dangerous, but steps can be taken to mitigate the risk. First, use throwaway credit card numbers for one-off charges (instead of buying a prepaid card at the supermarket). Second, *always* disable in-app purchases, or at the very least, use a PIN for them, and make sure the"remember PIN for 15/30 minutes" option is unchecked. 4-year-old girls are very adept at spending your money if you let them...they take after their mothers, after all...LOL.

The point is, you can sort of have your cake and eat it too, but it requires a little extra vigilance.


Boots66's picture

Having had more then one issue related to financial information on-line, I am completely not going to do this with Google - I have some e-mail accounts with them and by the wishes of a group I work with - I am part of a Google group - But I do not trust Google not to pull more crap out of their pocket only to convince you it is good stuff - I like my privacy and do not appreciate something like Google prying into my likes, dislikes and viewing to 'present me with' ads that I don't want anyways!

adh773's picture

One would have to be out of their mind to give Google any info on Bank - Vis - Debit information. This service is already in place where you have the company send you a bill and you pay directly out of any account.

INXS9000RPM's picture

This idea is a non-starter for anyone who has experienced the hassles of obtaining "archived" copies of statements, bills, receipts etc from companies urging one to Go Paperless.

When I wanted to prepare a delinquent Tax Return after spending 2 years overseas, I tried gathering "archived" statements older than 2 years from several Financial Institutions. I ended up having to pay $1,000.00 to my bank for 12 statements for 2 different accounts. And this was from a bank which had promoted Going Paperless as a terrific customer convenience. I got sucked into this pitch without first researching how far back (years/months) I could obtained copies of the electronic docs. It turned out that the bank took the windfall savings (of reduced paper, printing and mailing costs)and distributed it as Profits, instead of reinvesting the windfall in newer offline-storage Archive servers.

My advice is:

A) DO NOT switch to paperless billing unless you can access electronically archived copies at no cost (or nominal fee) for at least 5yrs to 7yrs back;

B) DO EXPECT Google to expand this Pony Express service to deliveries of Statements, Notifications, Alerts, Receipts, etc. Imagine the data they can accumulate on individuals from the contents of these docs.....

C) Beware of the ramifications of relying on Google issued/directed receipts for one-step payments to Pony Expressed bills. If you haven't noticed already, many companies (in particular Retailer charge cards) are providing (pathetically) simplistic email receipts for online payments. Instead, if you wish to retain "hard evidence" of:

- Date and Time of posting (or scheduling of posting),
- Source bank account of payment,
- Confirmation Code of transaction, and
- Billing period to which payment was intended to be applied;

in case of future disputes over unjustified and obscene Late Penalty fees, you need to keep taking screen-copies of Online Payment displays.

Many, many thanks to Dennis for providing us with John Lister's heads-up on this concerning evolution in Google's mastery of personal internet data gathering.

bcorsale's picture

The Google venture sounds like an iteration of "mycheckfree."