Harrow Council calls in Semafone and Capita for secure customer payments

semafone_logo Semafone have announced that Harrow Council has adopted its secure payment system for taking credit and debit card payments over the telephone. In a joint project with Capita, Semafone has provided Harrow with a new payment system, which is fully compliant with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) regulations. The system has been installed in Harrow’s primary contact centre which deals with 110,000 calls every month relating to all council services, from parking and rubbish collection to rent and rates as part of its Access Harrow scheme. 15,000 of these calls concern payments.

Semafone’s software is responsible for ensuring the security and PCI DSS compliance of every telephone payment. It allows the customer to enter card details via their telephone keypad, sending them directly to the bank. Keypad tones are masked from customer service staff so numbers cannot be identified by their sound. The project, delivered by Capita IT Services to address the Council’s PCI DSS requirements, included deploying Capita’s PCI DSS Payment Gateway, Call Centre, Web and Cash Management solutions for Harrow.

Harrow records all of its calls and occasionally needs to present these calls in court. To be PCI DSS compliant, however, no sensitive card numbers may be held on the recording. To address this dilemma, Harrow considered the option of pausing the recorder while numbers are spoken aloud, but quickly dismissed this because the method runs a high risk of invalidating the recording for legal purposes.

“Harrow residents want to be able to pay for services over the telephone without putting their card details at risk,” said Carol Cutler, director of customer services and business transformation at Harrow Council. “They want to do this while speaking to a person, not a machine. Semafone was the only company able to offer us a method of taking payments securely over the phone without compromising our customer service.”

She continued, “The other significant benefit of implementing Semafone is that the cost of complying with PCI DSS regulations has been reduced dramatically. With no card data passing through the call centre, our telephony infrastructure is exempt from the numerous checks and controls that would normally be required for PCI compliance.”

Tim Critchley, chief executive of Semafone, commented, “In this day and age, no organisation should be asking its customers to say their card details out loud. With Capita’s skill and experience in payment collection solutions, we have delivered a state-of-the-art payment solution to Harrow Council, offering residents peace of mind along with even higher levels of customer service.”

Nick Wilson, managing director, public sector and health at Capita IT Services, said: “The new partnership between Capita IT Services and Semafone will guarantee a more secure service for customers in Harrow. We’re very pleased to be able to provide such an innovative system, which offers significant benefits to the council and residents alike.”

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