Compliance concerns are pushing collection agencies from charging convenience fees, and for the first time, online payment processing was the most common form of payment accepted by agencies, according to the results of an industry survey conducted by payment processing company BillingTree.
This year marks the fifth straight year that BillingTree has conducted the survey, and nearly 200 agencies participated. A copy of the survey’s results are available here.
The number of agencies that are considering charging a convenience fee dropped between 2015 and 2016, according to the survey results, and the number that had no plans to change a fee increased slightly. As well, the number of agencies that indicated they do charge and collect convenience fees decreased slightly between 2016 and a year earlier.
While convenience fees may be on the way out, online payments are definitely on the way in, according to the survey results. Payments made via online portals surpassed payments made to live agents for the first time in the five-year history of the survey, with more than 84% of respondents accepting payments via the Internet.
Perhaps reflecting a new presidential administration and expectations of a reduction in regulatory activity, enforcement from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was not a top compliance concern among collection agencies last year. Instead, complying with the Payment Card Industry data security standards (PCI DSS) was the top compliance concern of those agencies that participated in the survey.
A leveling off of concerns over integrations between software systems during the past few surveys has perhaps indicated that “agencies have begun to achieve their integration goals and are now focused on ongoing performance and compliance,” according to the survey.
Among the survey’s participants, nearly one-third had fewer than 10 seats and only 21.4% had more than 100 seats. Healthcare debts were far and away the most popular category of debt collected by the survey’s participants.
Survey participants said that “New technologies enhancing collection effectiveness” was less important last year than the year before, replacing it with client expansion as the most important area that will affect their growth during this year.
For the second straight year, implementing compliance policies and procedures was the top concern.