Many SMEs are aware of the importance of a 'level playing field' when it comes to prompt payments - including the right to be paid on time by big brands, without them using their clout to negotiate longer terms, or their complexity as an excuse for failing to pay at all.

But when you start trading across borders, things can very quickly become even more complicated, because in other countries, even small business clients might be used to significantly different payment terms than they would be in the UK.

The OFT has refused to renew the consumer credit licences of debt purchaser HFO Capital Limited, and two associated debt collectors, HFO Services Limited and Roxburghe (UK) Limited.

Back in March of 2013 we ran an article called "Dodgy Debt Collection Agencies Liquidated" that featured the story of how the Insolvency Service had liquidated two companies run by a Mr Stuart Paul Cooper of Topping Street, Blackpool.

Then it all went quiet and we heard no mention of the name Stuart Paul Cooper until an eagle eyed reader contacted us this week.  They informed us that the infamous Mr Stuart Paul Cooper is now serving a three year jail sentence for fraud. So what happened?

It's good to know that, when a dodgy dealer makes off with client money and there's no record of where it's gone, they will face prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

New figures from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills show that the BIS Criminal Enforcement Team achieved 198 successful prosecutions in the 2012-13 financial year.

Following on from part one "Going Dutch: Contractor Debt Recovery in the Netherlands" we speak to Alex Tucker, the contractor who found himself at loggerheads with the Dutch agency and find out more about what brought him to this point.

Working for overseas clients is either a gamble, or a logical expansion, depending on which way you look at it - but as a self-employed contractor, you need to be confident that you will be paid promptly, as international debts can be more difficult to pursue.

A recent client handled by Safe Collections demonstrates this well; Alex Tucker had every reason to expect prompt settlement of his invoices by his Dutch client. He had worked with the company, both as a self-employed individual and as temporary staff, since 2005, as well as supplying services via a third-party limited company.

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.

Late payment of invoices is now - for the first time in recent years - the single greatest risk to creditors, even outranking debtor insolvency in a report from credit risk insurer Coface UK.

According to the insurer, 60% of the claims it received in the first nine months of 2013 arose due to "a customer's protracted default" - that is, either late or non-payment.

The world of credit control brings to mind the infamous Donald Rumsfeld quote:

"There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns - there are things we do not know we don't know."

Admittedly he was talking about weapons of mass destruction, but the same applies to your customers' financial situations, and effective credit control eliminates as much of the 'unknown' as possible, and maximises the 'known knowns'.

Slow payments represent a substantial risk to small and medium-sized businesses, who must often meet the cost of materials and labour for a month or more while waiting for customers to settle invoices.

But SMB cash flows were recently given what seemed to be a much-needed shot in the arm, in the form of the Prompt Payment Code - a commitment from big firms to pay their invoices as soon as reasonably possible, rather than withholding important funds from their SMB suppliers.

Hitting the Headlines: Safe Collections in the Guardian

in About Safe Collections by Adam Home
If you're a Guardian reader, you may have seen Safe Collections' collections and partnerships manager Adam Home quoted in a Guardian Professional article on May 12th. Tim Aldred's piece looked at the case for credit control teams as a way for businesses to…

Hitting The Headlines: The Independent on Sunday

in About Safe Collections by Adam Home
In 2009 our founder and Managing Director was interviewed for a piece in The Independent On Sunday, this article is reproduced below with their kind permission. in 2009 we still went by our original name of Creditsafe Ltd, whilst our name may have changed our…

 

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