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Can’t pay, won’t pay – top ten excuses for late payment revealed

The most common excuse for late payment to businesses by debtors is that the cheque is in the post, according to Lancashire law firm Napthens.

Suzanne Dean, head of debt recovery at the firm, has surveyed clients across a wide range of industry sectors to discover some of the most popular excuses used to avoid making a payment.

Despite recent advances in technology designed to make payments easier, such as smart phone apps and electronic payment systems that log and authorise payment of invoices, Suzanne found that many businesses are still using the same excuses that have been relied upon for decades.

Second most common on the list of excuses is ‘I have not received an invoice’, while ‘no-one is in to sign the cheque’ comes in a close third. ‘Payments are authorised and paid on set dates’ is fourth and the fifth most common excuse used is simply ‘I can’t pay.’

Other excuses include: ‘I dispute the payment’, ‘I have not been paid by my customer yet’, ‘accounts are too busy’, ‘no purchase order number was quoted’ and finally ‘I am changing my bank account.’

Suzanne is now offering tips on what businesses should do if they are struggling to receive an overdue payment.

She said: “It is understandable that many companies are wary of damaging customer relationships in the pursuit of payment, but it’s important to consider the additional financial pressures brought on by outstanding invoices.

“Businesses do not have to be helpless. Continue to follow up invoices and make sure to incorporate payment terms into terms and conditions; use this document to make it clear to customers that you expect payment on time and outline the penalties that will occur if it is not made.

“Beware of delaying tactics, and try to avoid agreeing to the customer making payment in instalments, instead go for a plan that allows payment to be made over a relatively short time frame.

“If in any doubt about your rights, consult your legal adviser as early as possible in proceedings.”