Nacha, the electronic payments association, published a set of "best practices" last week to reduce errors in online bill payment systems.

Chief among them are recommendations to reconcile information entered by customers during enrollment against information provided by billers, especially the "bulk changes" that sometimes occur when the biller changes its accounts receivable system or in a business merger.

Nacha also encouraged billers to work regularly, perhaps monthly, with processors and payment consolidators to identify and correct errors that generate exceptions.

Nacha's Council for Electronic Billing and Payment created a new section on its Web site last week, offering the report and other information.

First Annapolis Consulting Inc. has estimated that these exception items will cost billers about $155 million in 2008, not counting costs to consumers, processors, and financial institutions.

Though the volume of exceptions is less than 1% of U.S. online bill payment volume, the percentage of affected transactions can be much higher for individual companies.

Beth Robertson, a senior manager at First Annapolis and the council's chairwoman, said in a press release, "As more consumers turn to online bill payment, there is an increasing need for the industry to focus on eliminating exception payments."