Companies to investigate paying bills electronically

NTT Data Corp., Tokyo Electric Power Co., Tokyo Gas Co. and other companies said Friday they will set up a committee in May to discuss a new system for paying public utility fees.

The new system, slated for operation around April 2002, will allow consumers to pay their electricity, gas, telephone and TV broadcasting bills via mobile phone, personal computer or automatic teller machine.

As consumers will no longer need to go to the bank to pay utility fees during operating hours, the long lines at banks often seen at the end of the month may be eliminated, company officials said in a statement.

The companies and banks forming the committee include NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan Broadcasting Corp.,Asahi Bank, Sakura Bank, Fuji Bank, and the Bank of Yokohama. The Postal and Telecommunications Ministry will also take part in the talks.

Panel eyes rules for IT

A Ministry of International Trade and Industry panel on industry launched discussions Friday on establishing rules for dealing with the widespread use of the Internet and the rapid growth of information technology.

During the meeting, a panel member stressed the importance of increasing competition between Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. group companies and firms entering the telecommunications business.

The members, who include experts on civil and criminal law, will discuss whether existing regulations related to such laws need revision.

The panel is a subcommittee of the Industrial Structure Council, an advisory body to the trade minister. By October or November, the panel will compile policy recommendations on the role of government in the information age. and on ways to enhance security in electronic commerce, including the protection of consumers.

The subcommittee consists of 24 members, including Sony Corp. President Nobuyuki Idei and Mitsubishi Corp. President Mikio Sasaki.

The panel will hear from the heads of venture businesses in the field of information technology and from the general public.