Pitney Bowes Joins Internet Postage Crowd

Mail and messaging company Pitney Bowes (NYSE: PBI) ended months of speculation about its online postage plans today by announcing that it has received approval from the U.S. Postal Service to debut its ClickStamp feature.

The Stamford, Connecticut-based company said the service will be the first in a series of Internet postage products to be introduced for the small business and home office sector of the American workplace.

The approval from the U.S. Postal Service comes some seven months after rivals E-Stamp and Stamps.com received similar approval for their Internet postage services.

“PitneyWorks is pleased to add ClickStamp Online to our suite of Web-enabled services,” said Lisa Deblois, president of PitneyWorks. “We see this as a tremendous opportunity to serve the large number of businesses that are currently using stamps.”

Pitney Bowes spokeswoman Amina O’Farrell told the E-Commerce Times that the company is planning a phased rollout of its Internet postage service, offering it first to pre-registered customers and then to the general public by next month.

Patent Battles

The intensity of the race to develop Internet postage has manifested itself in the courtroom as well as the boardroom. Last June, Pitney Bowes filed patent infringement suits in federal court against E-Stamp and Stamps.com, alleging a violation of a number of its patents.

Both companies refuted the allegations. Then, late last summer, the Santa Monica California-based Stamps.com issued a press release saying that it was complying with a subpoena request from the Department of Justice’s Antitrust division involving an investigation into Pitney Bowes’ business activities.

O’Farrell was unable to confirm the status of the lawsuits or the DOJ investigation.

Other Products Unveiled

Pitney Bowes said the ClickStamp service — which allows users to use a PC and printer to print First Class Mail, Priority Mail, Express Mail and Parcel Post — is the key component in a suite of Internet offerings from the $4.4 billion (US$) company.

It is also offering ValueShip, a tool that allows users to find the most cost-effective way to ship packages, TargetProspects, which provides lists of pre-qualified customers to small businesses, and Direct Net, a printing and mailing service with free template software.

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