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What to Look for in a Payment Portal

Rozanne Andersen
July 10, 2024
payment portals

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This is part one of a three-part series about payment portals.

 

Payment portals are becoming increasingly important in the collections industry. These gateways help agencies increase recovery rates and improve the customer experience while maintaining compliance. That’s why it is critical for collection and recovery agencies to select a robust payment portal that includes several important features.

Let’s take a look at some of those features.

User privacy and data protection

Payment portals rely on data, and that data must be protected. This is critical in maintaining user trust and privacy. The payment portal you choose must have robust privacy practices to protect user data. And the portal must clearly communicate how it will collect, use, and store user data.

Any portal must provide users with options to control their privacy settings. And it must obtain the user’s explicit consent for data processing activities.

The portal must also comply with data protection laws, such as GDPR, CCPA, or other relevant regulations based on your target audience and jurisdiction.

One common mistake I observe during my compliance assessments is a tendency on the part of collection agencies and other financial service institutions to rely on the privacy policy of the vendor that powers their portals and other third-party vendors that support their portal. The privacy policies and practices adopted by vendors that support your portal are unique to them. Agencies are well advised to present their unique privacy policies and practices on their consumer-facing portals.

payment portals

Security measures

Any payment portal must prioritize the security of user information, as well as the security of the portal itself. To achieve this, the portal must employ encryption, secure authentication methods, and regular security audits.

It must also include security protocols that protect against common security threats, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and other vulnerabilities.

To complete the security checklist, portals must allow for software, plugins, and third-party integrations to be continually updated to promptly address security vulnerabilities.

Web scraping measures

A new security risks that plague portals is web scraping.

Web scraping is the process of using a program or algorithm to extract and process large amounts of data from the web. It involves sending HTTP requests to web servers, retrieving the HTML content of web pages, and then parsing and extracting specific data from those pages. Though collection agencies are unlikely web scraping targets for legitimate purposes, collection agencies and financial services payment portals, in general, are likely targets for nefarious purposes. In addition to security protocols, agencies should, at a minimum, have web scraping agreements and warnings in place to discourage the unauthorized use of portal data, limit access to the agency’s web portal, and include notices that warn bots to obtain express permission to access the information on the portal.

Consumer-friendly interface and experience

The consumer must be top of mind when it comes to the design of a portal. It must have an intuitive and user-friendly interface that ensures easy navigation, clear calls to action, and a responsive design for various devices. State-mandated font size requirements must be implemented.

As courts have made clear, web portals are deemed communications as defined under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. This means disclosures, such as the mini-Miranda and the agency’s state or city license number, along with terms and conditions of use, must be presented to the consumer on the portal.

It must also optimize page load times to enhance user experience and reduce bounce rates. The portal’s usability must be tested through user feedback, beta testing, and continuous improvement based on user behavior analytics.

Payment portals

Legal and compliance considerations

While not necessarily one of the first things that comes to mind, it is still important to understand the legal and compliance features when exploring payment portals. Payment portals must have comprehensive and transparent terms of use and privacy policies. They must also have processes in place to ensure users are aware of and agree to the terms of use before using the portal.

Portals must also comply with relevant laws and regulations related to online activities, consumer protection, and electronic transactions. And it must address issues, such as intellectual property rights, user-generated content, and compliance with industry-specific regulations.

Scalability and performance

As with any solution, a payment portal must be able to grow as your business grows. A payment portal must be scalable enough to accommodate potential growth in user traffic and data volume. Be sure that the web portal can handle increased demand without sacrificing performance.

The portal must:

  • Regularly monitor and optimize its performance
  • Address any bottlenecks or issues that may arise as usage increases.

As such, it is advisable to consider utilizing cloud services for scalability and flexibility in resource allocation.

Avoid misconceptions

Investigating any software or platform does come with obstacles. Some of these are based on misconceptions about what a portal should and should not contain. Beware of the following misconceptions:

     Build it, and they will come

  • Misconception: Simply adding a web portal guarantees its success and user adoption.
  • Reality: Adding a web portal is just the first step. Success requires strategic planning, marketing efforts, and ongoing user engagement. Understanding your target audience, addressing their needs, and actively promoting your portal are critical components of a successful launch and sustained growth.

     Security is someone else’s problem

  • Misconception: Security concerns can be fully delegated to IT professionals or third-party service providers.
  • Reality: Security is a shared responsibility. While IT professionals play a crucial role in implementing technical safeguards, everyone involved in the development and operation of the web portal should be aware of security best practices. Regular security audits, user education, and a proactive approach to identifying and addressing vulnerabilities are essential to maintaining a secure consumer web portal.

     Multifactor authentication is optional

  • Misconception: The Federal Trade Commission’s Safeguards Rule requiring implementation of phishing-resistant two-step authentication for employees and non-phishing resistant authentication for consumers accessing your portal is a nice to do rather than a must do.
  • Reality: MFA requirements are not optional for financial institutions, including collection agencies, debt buyers and collection law firms that offer web portals to consumers, agents and their clients. In each instance, consumer data is vulnerable to attack and misuse

     One size fits all – Ignoring user diversity and ADA

  • Misconception: All users have the same preferences, needs, and technological proficiency.
  • Reality: Users are diverse, with varying levels of technical expertise, preferences, and accessibility requirements. Ignoring this diversity can result in a portal that alienates or excludes certain user groups and expose the agency to liability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of the fastest growing areas of consumer litigation in the country. Existing technical standards provide helpful guidance concerning how to ensure the    accessibility of website features. These include the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Section 508 Standards. It’s crucial to conduct user research, consider accessibility standards, and provide customization options to have a web portal that caters to a broad range of users.

     Client and consumer portals are interchangeable

  • Misconception: The laws and regulations that impact consumer portals frequently do not apply to client portals.
  • Reality: Nothing could be further from the truth. Client portals include representations, collection strategy decisions and statements of self-aggrandizement that are not appropriate for consumer consumption and may create law violations under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Addressing these misconceptions involves a holistic approach that considers not only the technical aspects of the web portal but also its strategic positioning, user engagement, security, and inclusivity. Regularly reassessing these factors and adapting to evolving user needs and technological landscapes is essential for the sustained success of a consumer web portal.

The right payment portal

Payment portals are becoming a necessity for collections and recovery agencies. These portals can simplify the collections process, help increase recovery rates, and improve the consumer experience. It is important to choose a payment portal built with many, if not all, of the features listed above that easily integrate with your current workflow platform. It just may be the right solution for your organization.

Stay tuned for the next blog post in this series.

 

Disclaimer: Finvi is a technology company and provides this post solely for general informational and marketing purposes. You should not rely on the content of this material for any other purpose or as specific guidance for your company. Finvi’s advice, services, tools and products described herein do not guarantee compliance with any law or industry standard. You are ultimately responsible for your own company’s actions and compliance efforts. Because everyone’s situation is different, you must consult your own attorneys, accountants, and/or other advisors to obtain specific advice on your company’s compliance, legal, tax, regulatory and/or other business needs. Despite Finvi’s efforts to provide current and up-to-date information, you need to recognize that the information contained herein may become outdated quickly and may contain errors and/or other inaccuracies.

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