Getting Notices Noticed

May 24, 2018Don Murphy

Courthouses need look no farther than the mailroom for improving compliance with fees and fines.  In a mobile-first world, there are more options than ever to reach connected consumers.

While snail mail may never go completely out of style, emailing and texting offer more ways to quickly (and cheaply) follow up on court notices, increasing the chances of those notices getting noticed.

As of early 2018, nearly all (95%) of Americans own a cell phone, and roughly three-quarters (77%) own a smartphone, according to Pew Research. Of those smartphone owners, a growing number (20%) do not have any other home internet access aside from their mobile connection.

Those device owners also are increasingly loath to leave their phones alone: Americans check their phones about once every 12 minutes, according to a 2017 article by The New York Post that cited research by tech protection and support firm Asurion. In comparison, most consumers will only check their postal mail once a day – at most.

For court officers, our digitally-driven society represents an opportunity to reach consumers instantly at the push of a button. Online messages can even be scheduled ahead to issue periodic reminders for payment plan due dates. Paper mailings require more manpower to stuff in envelopes, stamp and deposit with mail carriers before the notice even starts its three-to-five-day journey to its destination.

Consumers are already indicating an interest in electronic court payment options, and many courts now accept payments via website. An email reminder can take the consumer directly to the court’s online payment system via a hyperlink, moving the notice from due to paid in full almost instantly. Text messages can provide a similar hyperlink option.

The Florida Courts E-Filing Authority reported that 98 million pages of documents were filed with state courts electronically in the fiscal year ended in June 2017. Outbound electronic mail has the same potential.

Postcards and letters may still be needed in some cases, as not all court system participants will have access to cell phones or computers. Emailing and text messaging compliment other compliance tools. Given the continual growth of digital devices, however, the electronic tools should be used more frequently.