The Government Digital Service (GDS) has unveiled a new feature to the GOV.UK Pay service, making it easier to take repeated payments and allow users to pay for things in instalments automatically.
GOV.UK Pay, which is used by hundreds of services across the public sector to take payments, was initially built to take single payments. The change came about because public sector services kept flagging that they needed the ability to take repeated payments for things like licences and subscriptions.
GDS has now built a functionality to allow services to create 'agreements', which allow payments to be taken on a schedule without the user being present.
An important part of this feature is the webhooks mechanism, which allow services that use Pay to receive messages about payment events, for example when a payment succeeds or fails.
Senior content designer Alan Maddrell said in a blogpost that webhooks have a wide range of potential applications, such as integrating with existing enterprise resource planning software. "For example, you could set up GOV.UK Pay to send a webhook when a payment is received along with the relevant information (like an invoice number) to allow it to be automatically registered and processed by your financial software. Using webhooks means that your finance systems are always up to date without the need for staff to manually input data. This can help with managing refunds."
If an organisation has lots of services that use GOV.UK Pay, webhooks mean they can use a single financial system to keep track of all their payments.
The new features have been developed with the Environment Agency, which is introducing recurring payments for rod fishing licences, and Kent County Council, which is using them to enable businesses to pay in instalments for a place on its fair trader directory.