Tuesday, 17 December 2013 09:56

PCG suggest anonymous 'name and shame' hotline for late payment

The Professional Contractors Group have called for an anonymous hotline to be created, allowing small business owners to 'name and shame' large companies that pay late or otherwise try to use their 'brand power' to manipulate payment terms.

While the PCG are calling it a 'witness protection' hotline, we prefer to call it Slimeshoppers, as it doesn't get much lower than a big business trying to use their size as an excuse to withhold payment to small suppliers.

The proposals come in response to the government's announcement of a scheme to allow small businesses to name and shame, without reprisal, their biggest customers who do not perform well on payment terms - something the PCG say would be difficult to police.

PCG director of policy and public affairs Simon McVicker says:

"Any move that helps to tackle the issue of late payment is welcome - but the government need to think carefully about how this new plan will work."

In particular, he warns that freelancers who are seen to be vocal about their late-paying customers could see their testimonials and future contracts put in jeopardy - an unintended negative consequence of the effort to tackle late payment.

This is, of course, something we see time and time again, as the moment you 'go public' with a financial dispute, it can quickly become very difficult to contain the incident so that only your side of the story is heard by potential future and current customers.

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Globetrottin' Slimeshoppin'

Of course, one of the major problems freelancers and small businesses have in the UK is when an overseas client pays late, or not at all - and we've discussed in the past how enlisting the help of an overseas collections agent can be crucial in recovering the funds.

But the government have taken action to protect against retaliatory action for Brits who take to the internet to name and shame their non-paying overseas clients, such as Milton Keynes transcriber Lesley Kemp, whose libel battle with Qatar-based Resolution Productions is, to our knowledge, still ongoing.

Like many international libel defendants, Ms Kemp fell victim to a trend for overseas claimants to embark on legal action in the UK, where libel laws tend to favour the claimant more often than in other countries.

The 2013 'Freedom on the Net: United Kingdom' report from Freedom House flags this up as a violation of UK web users' rights, specifically referring to Ms Kemp's case, but adds that action is being taken.

"In a positive sign, updates to the Defamation Act passed in April 2013 place restrictions on 'libel tourism' by requiring claimants to show that, of all the places in which the statement has been published, England and Wales are clearly the most appropriate places in which to bring legal action," the Freedom House report states.

"The Act also codifies defences of 'truth', 'honest opinion' and 'publication on matters of public interest'."

With all of this in mind, it has never been 'safer' for individuals and small business owners to name and shame their offending clients, wherever they are based in the world - but with no real option to do so anonymously as yet, some of the risk must still be carried by the individual.

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