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This new website could help solve the UK’s late invoice payment problem

3-minute read

Sam Bromley

26 January 2018

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The UK is gripped by a late payment problem, but that could be about to change.

To make sure small businesses are treated fairly, Small Business Commissioner Paul Uppal has set up a new website to make it easier for small business owners to resolve late payment disputes.

  • The best invoice apps for small businesses

'62 per cent of invoices paid late in 2017'

A late payment problem for the UK’s small businesses is a problem for the UK at large. Margot James, Small Business Minister, has said that if small businesses were paid on time, it could deliver an annual £2.5 billion boost to the UK economy.

Research from business financing firm MarketInvoice also makes for sobering reading. Their survey of 80,000 invoices says that 62 per cent of invoices issued by UK small businesses in 2017 were paid late – the average value of these invoices was £51,826.

To tackle the problem, the government appointed Paul Uppal as Small Business Commissioner back in October, with the remit to drive a culture change in payment practices. He said that his mission is to “help all small businesses nurture positive and lasting relationships with their customers that work in the best interests of both.”

How can you resolve a late invoice payment dispute?

The Commissioner’s website is a complaint handling service, which also guides businesses on how to deal with unfair and late payments by ‘checking, chasing and choosing.’ According to the Small Business Commissioner:

  • Check to see that there was nothing wrong with your invoice. Make sure that it has all the right details, it went to the right person and that they actually received it
  • Chase if your invoice was accurate. The next step is to speak to your customer to say payment is overdue and advise them of the next steps you can take to get the money you’re owed
  • Choose what next steps to take. You might need more advice, you might be prepared to negotiate with your customer or you might need to work out how much time and money you’ll be prepared to spend to get what you’re owed

If you believe lodging a dispute with the Small Business Commissioner is your next step, you can do so if you have fewer than 50 employees, and you are complaining about a customer that has more than 50 employees and an office in the UK.

The Small Business Commissioner will generally consider disputes around payments that are from the previous 12 months and that you’ve tried to resolve already, but there are some exceptions. You’ll get an automatic reply when you lodge a complaint, and if the Small Business Commissioner takes on your complaint, you’ll be assigned a caseworker.

Check out the website to see whether you have an eligible complaint.

Will this change the UK’s late payment culture?

The website has a wide remit. If the Small Business Commissioner and his team believe a case might help change payment practices, they will make it public (leaving out details that might damage a business).

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, certainly has high hopes that the Small Business Commissioner can deliver, saying he is “crucial to turning the tide on this late payments culture,” and that he will be encouraging small businesses affected to use the service.

“Success will be a UK economic culture where a business that does a job promptly, is paid promptly,” he said.

If you are currently owed money, we have tips on how to write a late payment letter to your customer.

Do you have any late payment disaster stories? Do you think the Small Business Commissioner will be able to solve the late payment culture? Let us know in the comments below.

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