FineFixer just the ticket
FineFixer is a fast track app for dealing with unpaid fines with huge potential to relieve the stress of many Victorians.
“It’s really common at community legal centres to have people turn up with a plastic bag full of unopened mail. They’re completely overwhelmed and have stopped opening their mail because once they have received four or five fines, what’s an extra one?” says Brendan Lacota, principal lawyer of Moonee Valley Legal Service.
One such person was former client *James. When he came to Moonee Valley Legal Service for help, he was drowning in 15,000 worth of fines and infringements. He said dealing with multiple infringements, issued by separate authorities over time, can feel like you’re being buried by the infringement system.
“Like many I simply chose to ignore the problem hoping it would somehow resolve itself,” he said.
Unpaid fines a growing problem
James’s story is typical of many who find themselves with mounting debt from fines and infringements. Problems with unpaid fines and the accumulation of crippling debt is the single largest issue that people come to community legal centres for help with – and the problem is only increasing.
The number of people seeking help for fines from Victorian community legal centres has increased by more than 60 per cent since the 2011-12 financial year. It is estimated to be costing the legal service sector alone over three million each year, not counting formal grants of aid.
Fast track to a solution
Last year, with clients like James in mind, Brendan pitched the problem to the RMIT Fastrack Program and the Access to Justice Through Technology Challenge. The program pitches common legal problems to students who form teams to develop a solution.
Students Joshua Lee, Alexandra Laurence and Rebecca Aiezza, under the mentorship of Brendan Lacota, developed the first prototype for the Finefixer app, which won the most viable project award of four projects in 2015.
Making it happen
However, turning a bright idea into reality isn’t easy, and the prototype sat on the shelf for a year waiting for a funding opportunity. Victoria Law Foundation came through with a grant last August.
With input from the lived experience of users such as James, and drawing on gaming and design principles, designers and developers Paper Giant ensured the online tool was carefully tailored to the user’s needs. As of this week, Finefixer has helped more than 7000 users. “We hope to help many thousands more over the coming years,” Brendan says.