INDEPENDENT NEWS

Text messaging new tool in fines collection

Published: Wed 26 Nov 2003 02:15 PM
Text messaging new tool in reparation and fines collection
Justice Ministry collections centre staff are now sending text message reminders to people who continue to avoid paying overdue reparation and fines, Courts Minister Rick Barker said today.
Speaking at the opening of the Ministry's new Auckland Collections Contact Centre, Mr Barker said the popularity of mobile phones and text messaging provided the Ministry with an excellent tool to reach reparation and fines defaulters.
"Collections officers began the texting trial yesterday and I'm particularly hopeful that it will be effective with young people, particularly young men, given that texting is so popular with youth, and young males owe the greatest amount of overdue fines - mainly from driving offences.
"In other words, we're 'getting with the programme', recognising that texting is the means by which the younger generation now prefers to communicate. Few appear to write letters or send post cards."
Text messages sent from the Contact Centre will contain information such as action and payment date reminders to defaulters' mobile phones.
"The message may say something like 'Hi! Don't 4get payment is due on (date), or 'U have an overdue fine. Call us by (date), or enforcement action can b takn against U'," Mr Barker said.
The texting trial, which runs until the end of January 2004, will enable Collections to evaluate customer responses to this means of communication and assess the viability of a future fully interactive text messaging service, including the possible inclusion of fines payments through mobiles.
"We're positioning Justice to take advantage of the phone merging with the bank," Mr Barker said.
The opening of the Auckland Contact Centre brings the total number of Collections Officers on phones in Wellington and Auckland to more than 130. Auckland currently has 23 Collections Officers, with another team of 12 in training and the centre can accommodate up to 150 collections officers.
The Auckland Contact Centre will work in tandem with the larger Wellington Centre to provide a seamless inbound and outbound call service to fines payers and victims.
Mr Barker said the Contact Centres would play a key role in the collection of overdue fines, including reparation.
"In the last financial year $54 million in fines, or about one third of total Collections' revenue, was collected from the Wellington contact centre."
The two centres are on track to make an even greater contribution to fines collection in the current year, having already collected $20.3 million in the first three month of the current financial year (July to September 2003).
ENDS

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