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This is an age-old debate between the legal sector and commercial debt recovery which has been ongoing for years. Both approaches promise to recover debts however the approach, timescales and costs vary considerably.
We found that some companies will just automatically pass their debt to a solicitor or claim their credit insurance without fully understanding the debt and customer. Others may look to use commercial debt recovery, but they are more interested in a less expensive agency with little experience, unsubstantiated claims, costs and recovery figures and are not interested in an ethical and reputable debt recovery company.
There are several factors you must consider before choosing the right approach for your outstanding customer invoices. Such consideration is company size, the customers industry and the age of the debt and value of the debt.
Late payer or bad debtor?
Another debate we often have with others in the industry is understanding the difference between these two terms. Some people don’t differentiate between these terms and believe they are the same, however we believe there are fundamental differences.
Late payers are companies who have the money available but who choose to keep a hold of the money for as long as possible. This could be to help their cashflow, increase their reserves or just because they have not been chased often enough.
A bad debtor is company who usually doesn’t want to pay or doesn’t have the means to pay. These are the most challenging forms of debtors. They should not be treated in the same way as a late payer and require a bespoke approach to recovering their debt. These cases are always more complex case and requires a variety of different approaches and tactics.
What route should I choose?
If you have exhausted all your internal resources collecting an overdue debt, or if your debt is now seriously overdue then you need to decide whether to outsource to a third party.
In the first instance, it is advisable to establish who you think are late payers. If you view them as a later payer, then it does make sense to try and prompt payment using a Letter Before Action (LBA). LBA’s only costs a few pounds and are sent by a solicitor giving the debtor 7 days to pay their outstanding invoice or further action will be taken to recover the debt. This approach is used as a loss leader for the legal industry to get clients on board before they undertake expensive legal action when the LBA does not work. As it only costs a few pounds, there is no calling, additional chase letters or background checks on the company. Although in most cases it is ineffective, it will act as a catalyst for a small portion of late payers. However, these letters will not deter bad debtors.
The only caveat to add here would be to ensure that when instructing an LBA through a solicitor you do not sign up to a contract. This way you haven’t signed up for the full recovery of the debt through the solicitor. Instead before progressing to the next legal stage we would recommend you then switch to a commercial debt recovery company to recover the remaining outstanding debts.
Commercial Debt Recovery companies will use pre-litigation techniques to recover your debts. This way you spare the expense, delays and any upfront costs associated with legal action. They will attempt to recover your money on your behalf. Unlike solicitors, all costs are agreed upfront and you should have this confirmed before instructing a recovery company. You will not be liable for any upfront costs and your costs only become due when the company recovers the debt for you.
Any reputable commercial debt recovery agent will run a few checks on your customer get some background before being instructed. They will credit check the company, have a look for any assets owned by the company and debtor. Check for CCJ’s and any patterns which might suggest your money is at risk. Then they will discuss what approach you wish to take and agree on the processes. This way you remain in control of the debt. That way work can be undertaken almost immediately after you have instructed them.
Remember most commercial debt recovery organisations will only charge on successful recovery and you will not be liable for any charges until then. They will also seek to recover all costs you are legally entitled to under The Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 – This allows you to claim 8% interest above the bank of England base rate, claim a fixed compensation fee per invoice and then any reasonable costs for recovering the debt. In most instances will be the costs from your commercial debt recovery company. There are no guarantees that you will receive these additional costs, however Darcey Quigley & Co have found that in 80% of cases they will recover such fees where the invoice or contract is not disputed.
If your commercial debt recovery company have exhausted all possibilities and failed to secure payment for you then they will pass the debt back to you for you then to pursue it through the legal channels if appropriate and if it is economically viable.
Remember there can be significant costs associated with legal recovery and even when you are successful in a case your debtor still has to find the funds to pay you. It does not guarantee payment of your debt or the recovery of your costs.
Why people write off bad debts
One of the most common reasons for writing off bad debts is that your customer becomes insolvent. This happens in 1 in 4 cases for written off debt. If this is the case, then both the legal route and commercial debt recovery would not have worked.
If you pass the case over to a debt recovery specialist earlier enough then as part of their investigation they should uncover tell tales signs that your money will be at risk. They would seek to recover your money before a liquidator is appointed or before the company goes into receivership. This is possible due top the quick turnaround time for debt recovery.
If you had instructed a solicitor, you would still be liable for the costs leading up to the recovery. On debt recovery if no money was secured before they went into liquidation/administration then no fee would be due.
Worryingly around 50% of bad debt which is written off due to certain assumptions; they believe the customer do not have the funds, they don’t have the time to continually chase the debts, they don’t want to damage their customer relationship, or they don’t have the fund to pursue the debts through the courts. On all these scenarios each debt could have been recovered through commercial debt recovery with little or no risk to you. The reasons companies provide to justify this
Writing off a debt has no advantages over recouping between 75% to 100% of the original sum. It is therefore imperative to be aware of the facts surrounding your outstanding payments to help you make a more informed decision about the debt and how to approach it.
No matter what route you decide to take always do your due diligence on the company you instruct. Your customers are important to you and you must find a company who will treat them in the same manner as you. Be wary of signing up for any contracts before you have used the organisation and be sure you are fully aware of your liability before signing up to anything.
It is safe to say that many of us spared a thought yesterday for the 40,000 Carillion staff across the globe who look likely to lose their jobs and livelihood. The company announced that it was going into liquidation rather than administration, meaning that there is little value left in the company. Undoubtedly the staff and all of the company’s sub-contractors will be the worst affected with this sorry state of affairs.
It seems the blame is being landed at the doors of the Board of Directors and even the Government, however, given the size of the organisation it is likely that more than one factor led to its shocking demise. Carillion’s business model was to secure large scale contracts, of which over 400 were Government related. The work was subsequently distributed amongst a number of sub-contractors to obtain the best price and squeeze as much profit out of the end client. Perhaps an indicator of things to come, in 2013 it was announced that Carillion would push its payment terms to 120 days, rather than the industry standard of 30 days, this of course resulted in sub-contractors being placed under additional cash flow pressure. Such decisions mean that large organisations, such as Carillion, have the control and power to squeeze SME’s to breaking point. As could be expected a large organisation with a turnover of more than £5 billion, who sub-contract the bulk of their work, working to 120 days payment, that there will be hundreds of millions of pounds outstanding to thousands of businesses and an even larger amount of their employees.
As mentioned, the real losers are the SME’s who provide services and materials to Carillion. It has been reported that the fall-out will reach over 100,000 people and will ultimately place hundreds, if not thousands of companies into administration or liquidation and will have a devastating impact on many businesses and the families they support. The larger companies do not come out unscathed either. The largest UK construction company, Balfour Beatty, it has been reported, is likely to take a £45m “hit” on Carillion’s liquidation. The Carillion liquidation has undoubtedly created a tidal wave across the construction industry, globally.
The construction industry is a sector which suffers the highest number of insolvencies. Construction companies, including SME’s, make up over 10,000 companies becoming insolvent, each year. This month, the second largest construction company in the UK forms one of those frighteningly large numbers. Once in administration or liquidation it can be very difficult to recover payment, however, you can reduce your risk of not being paid by having a robust credit control system in place to get paid before this happens. In many instances, no matter how robust your system is, you need a helping hand from the experts.
10 Most Commonly Asked Questions When Considering Pre-Litigation/Commercial Debt Recovery Services Sep 14, 2017
As we celebrate our 10 year anniversary this year we thought we would share 10 of the most Commonly Asked Questions by clients considering whether to use Pre-Litigation/Commercial Debt Recovery services.
Q1: If I have a disputed debt, can you still help me recover the debt?
A1: If a debt is disputed then we would be happy to review the case and discuss with the client our recommendations for resolving the case and obtaining an amicable settlement by acting as a mediator between the two parties.
Q2: How do you recover my funds?
A2: Our process couldn’t be simpler. After you have sent an unpaid or overdue account to us our pre-litigation team will assess the case and determine the most effective course of action.
Your dedicated Credit Management Consultant will liaise with you to obtain full facts about the case, and discuss their suggested course of action and the costs involved upon successful recovery. Together you will agree the preferred approach and also the method and frequency in which you want to be updated on our progress.
All instructions received are actioned within the hour, with communication commencing with the debtor, allowing us to establish the reason for late paying early in the process.
Telephone recovery will remain high throughout the case with the relevant legal notices being issued, and live updates provided in your agreed method. A full progress report will be provided within 48 hours.
Once the case is complete, we will provide you with a full review of the case.
Q3: Can you only recover what is overdue or in the statement?
A3: No, you are entitled to additional costs on top of your principal sum. Under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 you are entitled to claim interest, compensation and reasonable costs relating to your outstanding invoices. We have a very high success rate in collecting all costs for our clients, meaning in many cases that all the costs you have incurred to recover the overdue account will be covered. Within our notice sent to your debtor, we detail all the costs and pursue these costs in the same way we do your principal sum.
Q4: How long does it take to recover?
A4: Every debtor and their situation are unique, therefore there is not an exact time scale for every case. On many occasions, we have recovered the overdue account within 24 hours, however, on average, you should allow 16 days for the funds to be recovered.
Q5: If my account is not paid do I have to go legal?
A5: If we are unable to recover a debt at the pre-litigation stage of the recovery process we may recommend legal action as the next step. However, you are not obliged to issue litigation. The decision is yours to make, we will give our best advice to enable the client to make an informed decision for the next steps.
Q6: What information do you require to recover a debt?
A6: All we require to begin the recovery process is the outstanding invoices and a statement of the customer's account, any contact details you have for the customer and a brief explanation of why the account has not been paid if known and any disputes there may be on the account.
Q7: Which countries can you recover in?
A7: We can operate all over the world. As our service is pre-litigation we have no jurisdiction on where we can operate. Our Credit Management Consultants will work with your customer communicating via telephone within their time zones to ensure effective resolution of the recovery of the overdue funds. Over the years we have developed a vast network of expert professional partners in key trade zones across the world, who have provided us with assistance in successfully recovering tens of millions of pounds for our clients whilst protecting their brand and retaining their commercial relationship.
Q8: If I used you, would I be tied into a contract?
A8: No, that’s the great thing about our service, there is no commercial risk to your business. We only charge you upon successful recovery of the debt. The only time you will be asked to pay anything to us before we recover the debt is an international case, we charge a retainer of £250 which will be fully refundable upon successful recovery. As we only charge on a case by case basis and only when it is successful you can use our service on an Ad-Hoc basis or as an extension of your credit control department. (If you used our service as an extension of your credit control department and sent us a high volume of cases, a preferential rate could be discussed)
Q9: What is the oldest debt that you can recover?
A9: The maximum length you have to recover an overdue account is 2190 days (6 years) old from the date the invoice was due, however when a debt is this old it is harder to recover, as the debtor could have moved premises or liquidated the business during this time. The best time to instruct us would be between 90-120 days old from the date the invoice was due. Instructing a third party such as ourselves at this stage will give you the highest success rate.
Q10: When the overdue funds are recovered, can they be paid directly to me?
A10: Yes, we encourage all debtors to pay the overdue funds directly to you in your preferred way. However, if you do not have the facilities to accept payment via a card transaction or you have no one available to take payment for you, we can do it on your behalf. We use a “Worldpay” system which is an external payment processing site. The system is secure and as it is external from our business we hold no payment details, the debtor can either make the payment by themselves through a link on our website to the Worldpay system or they can call our secured payment line for us to do it on their behalf. All payments we take on behalf of clients are made into a “Ring Fenced” client account which is separate to our business account.
We hope that you have found these commonly asked questions useful and hopefully we have covered some of the questions or worries you may have when deciding to use Pre-Litigation services to recover your overdue or problematic accounts.
Is the art of conversation dead? We don’t think so.
Today many debt recovery companies do not have any direct contact with your debtor, a letter through the door or an email are the most common ways to chase debt. However, this is not the best way.
Telephone debt recovery is key to the success of Darcey Quigley & Co. The ability to speak directly with debtors, arranging payments, understanding their reason for non-payment and ultimately showing our client's intentions to debtors allows us to quickly make a judgment of each case, with a 93% success rate this proves that telephone recovery does work.
Alongside telephone recovery we also issue your debtor with the relevant legal notice, showing our clients intentions and that payment is wanted.
Why telephone debt recovery is more effective
Unlike emails, which are deleted time and time again by debtors, if phoned they are more than likely to answer as they are unaware of who is phoning them.
You can contact anyone at any time around the world in a matter of seconds.
It is much easier to have a reasonable chat with debtors, to understand their side of the story and come to a mutual agreement for payment. Rather than do this through email/letter which is time-consuming and excuses can be given for not receiving them. Maintaining a relationship with your debtor is a priority for us and we tailor our approach to ensure brand protection. Outsourcing allows you to remain impartial and to keep your professional relationship intact, our telephone strategy allows us to protect this relationship as we are actually speaking with the debtor on a regular basis and can fully understand their situation.
Have you been given the sales pitch “Free Debt Collection?" Unfortunately, in the Pre-Litigation or Commercial Debt Recovery Industry, we see it far too often and it is not always true.
Under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest), Act 1998 a creditor is entitled to interest, compensation and reasonable costs for recovering their overdue account.
Interest: You can claim interest at 8% above the Bank of England base rate from the date the invoice is due (at the end of the agreed credit window) to the point when it’s paid. You have up to six years to make that claim.
Compensation: This can be claimed for every overdue invoice – you can even claim it if an invoice has now been paid, providing you’re still within the six-year window.
Reasonable costs: The compensation is intended to cover your costs for recovering the debt but if these exceed the above figures, you can claim what hasn’t been covered.
However, if a customer is legitimately challenging an invoice, you are not entitled to compensation, interest or reasonable costs, which is often the case.
Also, a debtor doesn’t become a debtor for no reason they are either having difficulty in paying their outstanding account, have no cash-flow available in the business or are being reluctant to pay for whatever reason. Therefore even recovering the principal sum owed can be challenging never mind recovering additional costs on top of this.
Although we are very successful at recovering these costs and on the majority of cases we will collect these fee’s, which will cover your recovery costs, we will NEVER guarantee that these fees will be collected meaning you have nothing to pay to recover the outstanding debt, and any other Pre-Litigation or Commercial Debt Recovery company that claims this, is doing so falsely and we would throw extreme caution to this claim and encourage you to check all T&C’s thoroughly before signing or committing to the service and ask the question “Who is liable for your recovery costs if you do not claim interest, compensation and reasonable costs Under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest), Act 1998?"
When faced with late payers and outstanding debts, businesses have to make the choice whether to take legal action or instruct a debt recovery agency. Whilst both routes ultimately have the same aim, to recover the outstanding funds, the time taken and cost occurred vary greatly.
In a previous article - “Are you incurring unnecessary costs to recover overdue/problematic accounts?” we discussed the differences between the two options. Below we have illustrated the two processes to show the various steps, time frames and costs that can be occurred between the two options. Read More
Read our previous blog:
"Are You Incurring Unnecessary Costs To Recover Overdue/Problematic Accounts?"
Overdue/problematic accounts can cause a strain on your cash flow and the accounts department resources and can be costly to the business when you are unable to recover the outstanding commercial debt in-house and have to go down the legal route to recover.
The good news is that Darcey Quigley & Co can offer you an alternative to using a solicitor. Our Commercial Debt Recovery Service is a pre-litigation service and would be used instead of instructing a solicitor.
We believe the legal option is often a costly, lengthy and often an unnecessary step, with Commercial Debt Recovery being the preferred option for many businesses. With no upfront costs, our debt recovery service not only protects the profit margins, but also the commercial relationship between the two parties by settling any payment issues in an amicable manner where possible.
We have many clients that range from SME’s to large multi-nationals from a broad range of industries all over the world who have previously used solicitors to recover overdue/problematic accounts but felt that the process was very costly and time-consuming, sometimes taking up to 16 weeks to get a court hearing date.
There are many different “Debt Recovery” Companies out there, some offer consumer and/or commercial debt recovery and some operate in the UK and/or Internationally. However, the big question you are asking yourself is how do I know I am selecting the correct company to partner with my business?
In a previous article, “Choosing the Correct Commercial Debt Recovery Partner” we identified some of the key areas you should be looking at when deciding on a professional Commercial Debt Recovery Partner for your business, in this article we would like to look at “Why you should choose Darcey Quigley & Co” as your “Commercial Debt Recovery Partner”.
Why Choose Darcey Quigley & Co
We are transparent and open with a clear charging structure and approach
All costs are agreed on upfront and are only payable upon successful recovery of the overdue funds. We do not charge any retainers*, annual fees or put restrictions on the length of time you have to wait to receive any money we have recovered on your behalf, we have a ring-fenced client account which is separate from our business account so you can be assured that your money is safe. All client funds will be remitted within 5 working days (cheque may take longer)
We are honest and open with all our clients from the outset, we will carry out research on your case and if we don’t think we will be able to recover the debt for you, due to company liquidations etc we will tell you within the hour.
Risk-free debt recovery
Risk-free, really means risk-free, you only pay our fee when we collect your debt and you only pay for what we recover, for example, if your debtor has offered a settlement you will only pay our fee based on that figure.
Do you have any overdue or problem accounts that are troubling you at the moment? Don’t wait any longer and improve your cash flow by contacting us today on 01698 821 468 or [email protected]
Choosing the Correct Commercial Debt Recovery Partner
When you hear “Debt Recovery” it automatically paints a picture in your mind, which is not always a good picture. Unfortunately, the industry has a very bad perception and stigma attached to it and in some cases this perception is understandable. This perception is partly due to media hype and the unfortunate truth that there are some debt recovery companies out there that operate unethically and unprofessionally. Deciding to outsource your overdue or problem accounts on its own can be a big decision for a business let alone trying to select the best “Commercial Debt Recovery Partner” for your business.
We have identified some key areas you should be looking at when deciding on the best Commercial Debt Recovery Partner for your business:
Reputation and Length of Service
There is no better way to judge the success of a company than to listen to what the company’s clients have to say about it and by the types of clients they have. Look at the company’s website you are considering to see their client testimonials or case studies to see what their clients are saying about them and don’t be shy to ask about other clients and if you could speak to any of them to get their opinion on the service. Do a general search on the internet on the company to see if there are any news articles, forums or articles talking about the company.
The Right Fit for Your Business
We use the phrase “Commercial Debt Recovery, Partner”, as this is very important the commercial debt recovery company you use should be an extension of your business and they should work with you at every stage to ensure the approach they take is in line with your company values and ethics, but equally your business should fit with their values and ethics.
Protection of your Brand and Customer Relationship
Maintaining a relationship with your customers should be the priority and at the front of the commercial debt recovery companies mind when recovering your commercial debt as you have made a commercial investment with your customers and want to protect that for current and future sales.
We hope that this article has been useful in helping you select the correct Commercial Debt Recovery partner for your business. If you would like to discuss any of your Commercial Debt Recovery requirements, please contact us and we can discuss or advise you on your situation. Contact us today on 01698 821 468 or [email protected] and speak to our Credit Management Consultants today.
Commercial debt recovery is the right route
Many often wonder, what is the best way to retrieve all my unpaid invoices? The answer is commercial debt recovery. This route eliminates time and money wasted chasing debtors when you could be concentrating on what really matters – your business.
Here are 6 reasons why commercial debt recovery will be beneficial to your business:
Increase your company’s cash flow – quick
The importance of strong cash flow is aptly stated in the common expression “cash is king.” Having cash within your business will put you in a more stable financial position with better buying power. Having cash on hand is critical. A positive cash flow is essential if you want to generate profit.
Reduce debtor days
It has been reported for some time now that on average the amount outstanding to small businesses by their customers equates to around 56 days of the average daily sales figure reported by such businesses. This same figure is also referred to as ‘Debtor Days’ and it is a Key Performance Indicator that needs to be tracked constantly.
56 days is almost double the 30-day credit terms that are common in business, four times 14-day terms, and 8 times 7-day terms.
Increased efficiency and productivity
Productivity is essentially the efficiency in which a company can transform resources into goods, potentially creating more from less. Simply put, higher efficiency equates to better margins through lower costs. This allows for better compensation for employees, more working capital, and an improved competitive capacity.
Unpaid debts should not cause a huge strain on your business. If you want your debts swiftly actioned think about contacting Darcey Quigley & Co. We will ensure that collections are dealt with in the most effective manner and aim to recover your funds as soon as possible. Contact us today to discuss your overdue accounts. We won’t take up much of your time but will free up a lot of your time. 01698 821468, [email protected] or visit www.darceyquigley.co.uk and chat with us on live chat.
Missed invoice deadlines cost you money and can threaten your business.
The good news is, with a little know-how from Darcey Quigley, you can use the law to deter late payment and even have your costs covered.
This is thanks to the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 which entitles you to claim interest, compensation and reasonable costs when someone doesn’t pay.
Before we look at using it to deter late payment, let’s examine when the Act can be used and what it entitles you to do.
When can you claim?
If your customer hasn’t paid on time, you are entitled to claim money from them, providing:
- You supplied goods and services
- Your buyer bought for business purposes
- The contract is not a consumer credit agreement
- The contract does not contain any kind of provision for interest on overdue invoices or other solution for non-payment.
What can you claim?
Interest: You can claim interest at 8% above the Bank of England base rate from the date the invoice is due (at the end of the agreed credit window) to the point when it’s paid. You have up to six years to make that claim.
If there wasn’t an agreed credit window, interest is normally payable 30 days after the date of supply, the date the buyer was told the amount was due or when it has been confirmed the goods delivered fulfil the contract (which, in itself, can’t take more than 30 days).
Compensation: This can be claimed for every overdue invoice – you can even claim it if an invoice has now been paid, providing you’re still within the six-year window. You can claim the following:
Invoice amount Compensation
Up to £999.99 £40/invoice
£1,000 – £9,999.99 £70/invoice
More than £10,000.00 £100/invoice
Reasonable costs: The compensation is intended to cover your costs for recovering the debt but if these exceed the above figures, you can claim what hasn’t been covered. This could be the cost to your business of implementing credit control procedures and/or hiring a commercial debt recovery agency.
How to use the law as a deterrent with your customers
While the law doesn’t require you to tell customers you will claim late payment costs, making them aware you know the regulations and how to use them can act as a powerful deterrent.
This also makes sure customers, who may think you have relaxed payment terms, don’t get a nasty surprise.
To ensure you get the message across, include warnings on your invoices, statements and terms of business – and make sure these aren’t hidden in the small print. If you are speaking to new clients, it makes sense to highlight how you work.
Update your terms of business or you might not be able to claim
Be aware that, if your terms of business already provide for interest on overdue invoices, that will be all you can claim – not the late payment interest, compensation and costs you are entitled to under the Act.
To be able to claim on future contracts, you need to:
- Update all documents which include your terms and conditions
- Issue your customers with revised terms and conditions
- Let your customers know when these will be introduced
- Be able to prove when each customer has been told about the change to your terms and conditions.
How to claim
When an invoice is overdue, write to your customer highlighting:
Which invoice is overdue
How much is due in terms of interest, compensation and costs
How they should make payment
You are not required to send an invoice or any other warning letters.
What happens if they refuse to pay?
If a customer is legitimately challenging an invoice, you are not entitled to compensation, interest or reasonable costs. However, if the customer admits part of the invoice is correct, the law expects them to have paid that part, even if there is a dispute about the rest. If they haven’t, you can claim on the amount they agree is correct.
Where an incorrect invoice is based on a calculation, such as time, and the customer has the information to be able to work out the correct amount, they are expected to pay what is actually owed. Once again, if they don’t pay, you can claim on the correct amount.
If your customer is not responding to you, why not give us a call?
We care about our clients’ businesses and will advise if the time is right for us to speak to your customer. Remember, our fee can sometimes be covered as part of the reasonable costs.
If you would like to know more about the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act, here are some useful links: