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First Party Collections Information Important To Your Business’ Cash Flow

Todays Date: December 19, 2018

The term first party collections refers to any collections that are performed by the company to whom the debt is owed. You may not have realized it, but any time you call a client and ask them to pay up on a bill or send a reminder notice, you’re doing first party collections. Some large companies go as far as to open their own collection agency as a subsidiary to handle this.

“First party” literally means that you were the first party in the original exchange of goods or services for money, i.e. the lender. The person who accepted the goods or services and promised to pay, i.e. the debtor, is the “second party.” If an outside collection agency becomes involved, they were not part of the original transaction, which is why they’re called “third party.”

First party collections activity has some unique advantages. For one thing, there is no lag in time between an account becoming delinquent and the beginning of the collections process. Also, you have knowledge of your customers’ needs and practices, making it easy to maintain a positive relationship even after debt is incurred, which helps down the road if you want to keep the customer as a client.

Often the debtor will be more inclined to try to please their original creditor, especially if you have a product or service that he or she needs in order to maintain their business. Sometimes a gentle reminder that you won’t ship any more items until their past due amount is cleared up is enough to get recalcitrant debtors to pay.

Another difference is that unlike third party agencies, first party collections do not fall under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. When you are the original party or a legal affiliate of it like a subsidiary, you are considered a lender rather than a collector. Third party agencies therefore do not have as much wiggle room in their practices as first party collections entities due, but the latter are still subject to state and federal law.

Once a bill gets past due beyond 2-3 months, though, it’s usually time to turn it over to a third party agency or sell the debt. The ability to collect on past due amounts drops steeply after this time statistically, so rather than continuing collections actions in vain, you’re better off handing them over to professionals with more resources.

In addition, first party collections aren’t very effective unless you have a specialized collections staff. Your sales force, accounting staff or management are not trained collections people and their time is better spent elsewhere while you save collections endeavors for people who know how to perform them.

If you hire an individual or create a department to handle first party collections, however, they can be just as successful as third party collections. If they are knowledgeable in modern collection techniques like private investigation to track down new addresses and phone numbers, offering incentives to get the debtor to call in or working out settlements, first party efforts can be remarkably efficient. When trying to make the decision of which type of collections instruments to use, keep in mind whether you’re spreading your resources too thin or if you have the team in place to do first party collections.

David P. Montana has written extensively and served as a business advisor in collection agency services for three decades. David provides additional helpful tools and resources about outsource billing service options.

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