Keeping on top of late paying customers or clients is crucial for business success. There have been a number of studies which highlight the problem of late payment. Research suggests that around 76% of all UK businesses are being paid late, with the average late payment burden for UK SMEs currently standing at £32,185. This places the business in serious financial difficulties, and perilously close to becoming insolvent. The Federation of Small Businesses has commented that "ending late payments would have saved 50,000 UK businesses from failing in 2014". Therefore this is a very real problem impacting the majority of businesses in the UK.
In this guide, we will help you be proactive in preventing bad debts accruing and minimise the disruption (and maximise the return) when they do.
Completely avoiding late payments is probably not realistic but there are ways you can minimise it.
Here is our checklist for effective credit control:
It can be tricky dealing with late payments whilst maintaining a good relationship with your customers or client. One way to depersonalise the collection process is by instructing a solicitor led debt recovery service such as Forbes Collect.
Inform debtors that the decision to take legal action is not personal and is out of your hands. It is sometimes a requirement of insurance that legal action is taken to recover unpaid invoices after 30 days.
In most cases this won't do any damage to your business relationship; however, if late payments persist, it might be worth thinking about whether you actually want them as a customer.
It is a requirement that at the start of debt recovery action we write to the debtor to bring the unpaid invoices to their attention and also set out your full claim against them. This is known as a letter before action. This letter forms part of our pre-litigation process.
At Forbes Collect we focus on recovering your monies at this initial pre-litigation stage and our aim is to maximise your returns at this stage.
One of the ways we seek to maximise your returns is that we immediately add interest and in the case of business debts, compensation to each invoice. Therefore even when we have been paid after our first letter, we have recovered additional sums to compensate you for the inconvenience of late payment.
During our pre-litigation process the following will be done:
If there has been no payment or response during the pre-litigation stage then you can issue a County Court Claim. At Forbes Collect, we issue Country Court Claims online, which can help save up to 18% on court fees. Taking your customer to court can be a difficult decision. To help you make up your mind here are some pros and cons:
Defended claims fall outside of our Forbes Collect service and the matter will be passed to a lawyer in our team for a fixed price review. You will be advised on the contents of the defence and the next steps in the process. If a Defence to your claim is filed you will need the best advisers on your team and our solicitors have the experience and expertise to guide you through the process.
If we are successful with your claim for unpaid invoices you will obtain a County Court Judgment, which is an enforceable court order. This will usually order the debtor to make payment of the debt, interest and costs immediately.
As part of our process we will send a copy of this Judgment to the debtor giving them three further days to make payment. Unless this Judgment is paid within 30 days the Judgment will be registered against the debtor and will have a detrimental impact on their credit rating.
Unfortunately, some debtors do not make payment unless you take further action. Our usual enforcement action is to instruct the High Court Enforcement Officers to attend their premises and seize goods to the value of the debt. In most circumstances this is enough to prompt payment.
Further enforcement options are available on request.
An alternative to issuing a County Court claim is to commence insolvency action. This is a possibility where:
The first step in insolvency proceedings is to serve the debtor with a statutory demand for payment. This gives the debtor 21 days to make payment and also warns the debtor that failure to make payment will mean you will issue a winding-up (company) or bankruptcy (individual) petition.
This step should particularly be considered if the debtor is a company and you know that they are in a position to pay their debts.
Using a solicitor led debt collection service means you have expertise and experience on your side. Typically, using a solicitor means the chances of recovering the monies owed to you are greatly improved. Debtors will often take the claim much more seriously after receiving a solicitor's letter or a claim. Chasing debtors is a time consuming and potentially frustrating part of running a business. Passing your unpaid invoices over to a debt recovery solicitor will give you peace of mind that the debtor is being chased for payment, whilst you continue with the day-to-day running of your business.
We have found Forbes to be efficient, informative and effective in all our debt collection cases
KM Accountants have worked with Forbes for just over 12 Months. During this time we have gained a great working relationship and I feel Forbes understand our business needs
On behalf of everyone here at EvolveU we just wanted to say a massive thanks for all of your help and assistance with the Traffic Engineering and Management Services Limited
We are delighted with the Professional manner in which Forbes Solicitors deal with all our legal requirements and would not hesitate to recommend this Company.
Trident Fire & Security Group Ltd
We asked Forbes Solicitors to help when a client would not pay his bill. I sent an email to Katy, received a reply straight away, we were advised of the action that would be taken
Abby Welding Ltd
I contacted Alison at Forbes Solicitors regarding an outstanding debt which we were having problems getting paid for I would just like to say what a very quick and professional service she provided
Thermal Hire Ltd
The Woodscape Group have been relying on Forbes Solicitors for over thirty years and the work carried out by Alison Nelson and the team over the last few years has only strengthened
DPFOC relies on Forbes for all legal advice. We find the service to be professional, well-informed and affordable.
Eddie O' Driscoll
I was owed money for plumbing services provided and despite several conversations with the debtor to request payment, he was dishonestly claiming that he had paid despite their being no evidence
Back on Tap Plumbing
Alison and her team have worked with us on a number of occasions now - so much so that we see them as an extension of our business!
Higher Access Limited
Forbes have helped me immensely with bad debt recovery over the past few years.
Able 2 Ltd
I have used Alison Nelson for a number of years for debt collection. I would strongly recommend her for similar work.
Consultant Plastic Surgeon
The professional and speedy way that Forbes dealt with this resulted in a very quick settlement of the matter. I can assure you that I will recommend Forbes for matters such as this in the future.
D&M Creative Limited
We have used Alison's services on a number of occasions and have always received the desired results!