Credit Control

At Safe Collections, we’ve been banging the drum on the UK’s late payment culture for years, making the case over and over again that without the stick of meaningful enforcement, there is little incentive for large companies to stop holding smaller suppliers over a barrel when it comes to payments.

Finally, it seems like the message may have gotten through to the government, although on account of the time it has taken, we can only conclude they are listening reluctantly.

You couldn’t accuse the UK government of wishing a second national lockdown. In fact, according to critics, the Johnson-led administration is guilty of trying to fend off the inevitable for too long, failing to take the decisive action that just might have nipped the ‘second wave’ in the bud back in September when it was clear cases were rising again.

The government’s reasoning is no secret. It wanted to do everything it possibly could to keep the already battered economy open, fearing the long-term consequences of another significant shut down in trade and commerce.

And yet here we are. After it became clear last week that the regional approach to COVID-19 restrictions wasn’t going to be enough, that transmission had galloped past the worst-case working assumptions, and that the NHS was already close to being overwhelmed in some areas, No 10 felt it had no other choice. Another U-turn, another lockdown, another month (we hope) of all but essential customer-facing businesses being shut.

Thursday, 29 October 2020 10:55

Handling Late Payments in a Pandemic

It is not likely to be news to any business owner that the COVID-19 pandemic has seen late payments soar.

The fallout from the crisis has seen revenues across the economy plummet, with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reporting a 20.4% slump in GDP in Q2 of this year while the country was in full lockdown.

Creative agencies and freelancers are being stung by an average 27-day wait for settlement of overdue invoices, according to a new report.

The findings come from a survey of over 5000 invoices issued by organisations such as IT developers, digital marketing consultancies, design specialists, film, TV and photography contractors and more. The study, carried out by business lender MarketFinance, found that clients were routinely paying service providers and suppliers late despite already insisting on lengthy payment terms that averaged out at 45 days.

A new year, a new decade even - but still the damning picture of just how much damage the UK’s late payment culture is doing to the small business economy continues to develop.

The latest depressing statistics, courtesy of digital business banking platform Tide, show that UK SMEs are on average spending a staggering one and a half hours every day chasing unpaid invoices. When you extrapolate that across the economy, that translates into 900,000 working hours being lost every single day.

It’s a billion-dollar industry that, unless you take your video gaming seriously, you might not even know exists. But the world of esports - competitive cash-prize and professional video gaming - has become big business, with live events attracting audiences of millions online and in person, not to mention highly lucrative corporate sponsorship deals.

The latest official figures detailing the number of convictions and other enforcement actions made under the Companies Act show that Insolvency Service activity is down by as much as 50% year-on-year in a number of key indicators.

The Insolvency Service publishes monthly statistics detailing the number of prosecutions, fines and winding up orders it has executed against individuals and businesses for breaching rules relating to the fit and proper running of businesses. Many of the actions are made under the terms of the Companies Act 2006, which sets out clear responsibilities for company directors and makes individuals personally liable for mismanagement of businesses leading to insolvency.

Figures taken from a government consultation into tackling late payment culture reveal that just one in 10 businesses paid late by clients take up the option of adding permissible charges.

The report published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy further confirms the shocking extent of late payments across the UK economy, with 97% of participants in the consultation saying they had experience of not being paid on time. More than a third of the businesses asked (36%) said more than half of their invoices were settled after the agreed deadline.

One of the things suppliers are always advised to do before agreeing to provide any client with goods or services on account is to check their credit rating.

It’s a simple way to increase your own protection against serial defaulters and outright rip-off merchants. If a company or an individual has a good credit score, it means they haven’t got anything in their past that should give you cause for concern about their ability or intention to pay.

An initial review of payment practices under the government’s Prompt Payment Code has found 17 signatories in breach of the code’s commitments.

A total of five companies - BHP Billiton, DHL, GKN Plc, John Sisk & Son Ltd and Twinings - have been kicked out of the scheme completely for non-compliance and for failing to produce an action plan for how they intend to bring their payment practices in line with the stipulations.

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