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Collection of Delinquent Fines: Assessing the Effectiveness of Alternative Text Messages in the United Kingdom
Last registered on February 25, 2014

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Collection of Delinquent Fines: Assessing the Effectiveness of Alternative Text Messages in the United Kingdom
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0000253
Initial registration date
February 25, 2014
Last updated
February 25, 2014 5:51 PM EST
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Columbia University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2012-01-01
End date
2013-04-30
Secondary IDs
Abstract
This paper reports the results of a large randomized controlled trial, led by the UK Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights Team, which was designed to test the effectiveness of mobile phone text messaging as an alternative method of inducing people to pay their outstanding fines. An adaptive trial design was used, first to test the effectiveness of text messaging against no treatment and then to test the relative effectiveness of alternative messages. Text messages, which are relatively inexpensive, are found to significantly increase average payment of delinquent fines. We found text messages to be especially effective when they address the recipient by name.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Gallagher, Rory et al. 2014. "Collection of Delinquent Fines: Assessing the Effectiveness of Alternative Text Messages in the United Kingdom." AEA RCT Registry. February 25. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.253-1.0.
Former Citation
Gallagher, Rory et al. 2014. "Collection of Delinquent Fines: Assessing the Effectiveness of Alternative Text Messages in the United Kingdom." AEA RCT Registry. February 25. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/253/history/1125.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
On the Monday after their cases escalated to distress warrant status, HMCTS sent in- dividuals in the text message treatment groups a text (short message service [SMS]) to their mobile phones. These messages alert the owner that the message has arrived; the owner presses a button to see the text on the screen of the phone. Recipients of the text message viewed the sender as “HMCTS.” In the event that the message was undeliverable, the sender received a notification, which we used to classify text messages as “delivered” or “not delivered.”

As shown in Table 1, each message conveyed the same core information. Recipi- ents were reminded about their unpaid fines, warned that failure to pay would result in a warrant, instructed to call a payment hotline number, and given the reference identification number. The experimental variations on the standard treatment (see Table 1) were the personalized (PERSONAL) condition, in which the message was preceded by the recipient’s name; the personalized amount (AMOUNT) condition, in which the recipient was reminded of the total value of the outstanding fine; and the personalized name and amount (PERSONAL/AMOUNT) condition, which included both of these elements.
Intervention Start Date
2012-01-01
Intervention End Date
2012-04-30
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
- fine collection (in pounds) within one week of the SMS being sent
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Our experimental design consisted of two phases: In Phase 1, we tested a series of alternative text treatments against a control condition in which no text was sent. The null hypothesis is that text messages fail to increase the payment of delinquent fines, which implies the use of one-tailed tests. In terms of point estimation, this phase of the experiment allowed us to gauge the overall effectiveness of text messaging and to assess tentatively the relative effectiveness of different types of messages. In Phase 2, the NO TEXT group was eliminated from the design, and the aim was to sharpen our estimates of the relative effectiveness of alternative messages. Two-sided tests are used to test the null hypothesis that subjects respond to alternative messages in the same way.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Government statistician randomly allocated each week's group using the random number generator in SPSS
Randomization Unit
individuals
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
In Phase 1, a total of 1,817 subjects were randomly allocated; another 3,633 subjects were randomly allocated in Phase 2.
Sample size: planned number of observations
5,450 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Phase 1:

NONE text: 366
STANDARD text: 361
AMOUNT text: 364
PERSONAL text: 362
PERSONAL/AMOUNT text: 364

Phase 2:

NONE text: 0
STANDARD text: 912
AMOUNT text: 890
PERSONAL text: 917
PERSONAL/AMOUNT text: 914
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers