Editor’s Note: A copy of the full webinar recording is available for download by clicking here.
The design of a website and where a collection agency shows up on search engine rankings play a big role in limiting the number of pre-litigation demand letters that are sent to that company, according to a pair of compliance experts who spoke during a webinar hosted by AccountsRecovery.net earlier this week.
“You want to make your site look legitimate so the consumer doesn’t think your site is a scam,” said Kelly Knepper-Stephens, the general counsel and chief compliance officer at Stoneleigh Recovery Associates during the webinar, which was sponsored by WebRecon. “You want the consumer to interact and complain to you first. You want to keep them from feeling like they need to go to a plaintiffs’ lawyer.”
The important design elements that Knepper-Stephens and Tim Collins, the chief ethics and compliance officer at Convergent USA, spoke about include making sure that a contact phone number is on every page of a collection agency’s website. It also includes a portal to give consumers the chance to file a complaint and to make a payment, Collins said.
“You want your site to be as easy to use as Amazon,” Collins said.
Along with a fully-functioning website that is easy to use and shows up high on search engine rankings, the key to fighting back against the dramatic increase in pre-litigation demand letters is to make it as painful as possible for lawyers who are working the cases, the pair of industry experts said. That includes responding to emails with phone calls, calling at odd hours, and making demands of the attorneys.
Those demands include making them prove they are legally representing the individual named in the demand letter by furnishing a copy of the retainer letter signed by the individual. In many cases, the individual does not live anywhere near the attorney and there is no retainer letter. The attorney is just reaching out to try and make some quick money. One popular tactic is to just ignore demand letters in the first place, said Knepper-Stephens. In many cases, more letters or communications do not follow.
“I’ve only had one case that started as a demand letter and ended up as a lawsuit,” she said. “We wait for a second letter unless it is a case of a rogue collector.”
Agencies should conduct their own review and investigation into the complaint to make sure that nothing egregious or actionable was done by a collector, but also to research the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s attorney.
“It can’t be easy money,” for attorneys, Collins said. “It has to be work. You want to know the plaintiff better than the plaintiffs’ lawyer does.”
For these ideas to be successful, all parts of a collection agency have to be involved and participate in the process, Knepper-Stephens said
“Once you have buy-in, the operations people will be excited about getting more calls and getting even more online payments,” she said.
A copy of the full webinar recording is available by clicking here.