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Is debt collection worth the hassle?
Thread poster: Callum Walker

Callum Walker  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:52
Member (2010)
Russian to English
+ ...
May 26, 2011

Dear all,

I have been having some problems obtaining payment for a small project I carried out for a French company in January this year.

I have full documentary evidence including a purchase order issued by the company (on which it states the payment term as being 60 days end of the month in addition to rates and deadlines etc.), as well as the invoice I issued to the company (the receipt of which was confirmed by email), plus all the various email exchanges since.

I have sent numerous emails demanding payment given that the invoice was issued on the 17th January. And by my calculations it should have long since been paid by now. At the beginning of this week I sent them a final demand (after 4 previous 'standard' demands for payment), demanding payment by tomorrow (Friday 27th May).

Now comes the tricky part. The job I carried out was relatively small and the invoice total amounts to only 107.24 EUR. I have threatened the involvement of debt collection agencies should they fail to pay by tomorrow.

The dilemma I have is that I did not previously stipulate the fact that the company would cover any debt collection charges which may be required (by means of a vendor terms and conditions), and nor, in this respect, have I stipulated any late payment charges (and as such I would have no legal grounds on which to levy such charges). I realise that this is a small amount of money to recover compared to some projects I do, but more than anything else there is the sheer principle of fair business dealings. I do not want this company to get away with not paying me what I am owed. As such I would certainly like to have recourse to debt collection. However, my query is whether or not it will be cost effective or worthwhile?

Does anyone have any advice in this respect? Or indeed any experience in the recovery of unpaid invoices?


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:52
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Prevention, a lot better than remedy May 26, 2011

I think that for that amount, and especially if the job was done for a new customer, an advance payment of at least 50% of the job would have been advisable.

About the situation at present --and this is my personal opinion-- in my case I would not pursue the payment and would carry on with my life, but would make sure there was a big negative Blueboard entry for this company so that others can know what kind of customers they can be.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:52
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Experience May 26, 2011

Callum Walker wrote:

Does anyone have any advice in this respect? Or indeed any experience in the recovery of unpaid invoices?


I have had a number of such experiences. In every case I have found that the **threat** of handing it all over to a debt collection agency resulted in immediate payment.

My creditors were all based in Italy and thanks to the help of an Italian colleague I had the link to a very scary Italian debt collection company's website, which describes the whole process that would be undertaken.

I've found that sending my non-paying clients an email with a link to that website produced marvellous results.

So if you can find a similar website for the country you're involved with, and send a link to the people who won't pay you, you may get similar results.

BUT--

You must be convinced in your own mind that you DO intend to go through to the end with the process. Even if it's only for €50. There's a principle involved here: don't let people get away with not paying you just because the amount is small.


[Edited at 2011-05-26 13:53 GMT]


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Maria Lila  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:52
French to Spanish
+ ...
EU small claims May 26, 2011

Whereas I agree with Tomás, maybe you could consider the EU Small Claims Court as a way to get your money, without hiring a debt collection agency.

Some links:

http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/infoabout/claims/eu_cross_border_claim/index.htm

http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/consumers/protection_of_consumers/l16028_en.htm

And of course, a negative input in their BB!

Good Luck and all the best!
María


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Callum Walker  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:52
Member (2010)
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I couldn't agree more May 26, 2011

Tom in London wrote:

There's a principle involved here: don't let people get away with not paying you just because the amount is small.


This is exactly my point. I do not want to allow this company to get away with this sort of business practice.

My only concern is that the actual fees charged by the debt collection agency will be higher than the invoice itself, in which case I will lose out even more than I already am doing.


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Callum Walker  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:52
Member (2010)
Russian to English
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TOPIC STARTER
BB negative feedback shall follow May 26, 2011

Maria Lila wrote:

a negative input in their BB!


I'm waiting to leave them some very very negative feedback until this has been resolved! I do not want any negative comments of mine to influence them any further in not paying me!


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:52
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Fees May 26, 2011

Callum Walker wrote:

My only concern is that the actual fees charged by the debt collection agency will be higher than the invoice itself, in which case I will lose out even more than I already am doing.


In my case the debt collection agency make it clear on their website that they will use legal means to force the non-payer to bear all costs, including their own costs.


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Richard Foulkes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:52
German to English
+ ...
Not for the amount concerned IMO May 26, 2011

If it were me, I'd weigh up the time and energy I'd spend pursuing the debt against the time it would take to recoup the lost money elsewhere. Once this amount's written off as a bad debt in your accounts, it's a pretty small sum like you say.

I agree with Tom when he says: "There's a principle involved here", but the principle can also be addressed with a negative entry on the blueboard and other payment sites. That way the client may incur considerable incovenience in future for the sake of a small amount.

You say you've sent a number of reminders but you don't say whether you've 'proposed' to blueboard them etc. I wonder if that would get a better response?

Personally, I wouldn't work for 60 days EOM either (90 days is plenty of time for a company to go bust in this climate) but each to his/her own.

Good luck!


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Callum Walker  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:52
Member (2010)
Russian to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Sometimes needs must! May 26, 2011

Richard Foulkes wrote:

Personally, I wouldn't work for 60 days EOM either (90 days is plenty of time for a company to go bust in this climate) but each to his/her own.


Generally speaking I don't! But sometimes needs must when the flow of work is coming up short.

However, looking at the blueboard for this company, within the last few months (since I completed this job) there have been a string of bad reviews (1s and 2s). So I doubt my negative entry would make the blindest bit of difference.

Something certainly seems like it is not right any more with this company, especially seeing as the reviews have started to spiral recently.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:52
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Blue May 26, 2011

Callum Walker wrote:
.... looking at the blueboard for this company, within the last few months (since I completed this job) there have been a string of bad reviews (1s and 2s). So I doubt my negative entry would make the blindest bit of difference.


If you add yet another negative comment and also report them to Proz.com as non-payers, Proz itself will try to contact them and if you don't get a result, can suspend or BAN them from the whole website. A sufficiently high number of bad ratings gets an agency kicked out.

This can often result in prompt payment.

This is yet another excellent support system provided by Proz. and it has helped me out on a couple of occasions when I wasn't being paid.

How to do it is all explained at the Blue Board section of the website.

[Edited at 2011-05-26 14:28 GMT]


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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:52
Member
English to Hungarian
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Go through the process once May 26, 2011

Tom in London wrote:

There's a principle involved here: don't let people get away with not paying you just because the amount is small.


I agree with this entirely.

I think this sum is quite perfect for going through the hassle for the first time: it is not too large, so if you end up not recovering it, you will have learned a not too expensive lesson - but it is good enough to enjoy a nice dinner in a good restaurant. But the most important point is the confidence you will have in handling such issues in the future. If you let them get away with nonpayment, you may face a similar unpleasant situation more easily then if you put your foot down now.

Tom is also right when he says that a simple link to an appropriate site may very well be enough. A friend of mine had to recover a five-figure sum (in GBP) from a very well known big international company - but taking contact with the debt collection agency Creaditsafe (UK) and mentioning their name was enough. The client knew they had a lot to lose.

Cheers,
Attila




[Edited at 2011-05-26 14:38 GMT]


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Richard Foulkes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:52
German to English
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I know what you mean... May 26, 2011

Callum Walker wrote:
Generally speaking I don't! But sometimes needs must when the flow of work is coming up short.


It's a balancing act eh?

I wasn't meaning to sound wise after the event. I just tend to think that anyone who wants 60 days to pay an invoice must have terrible cash flow (which puts them at risk of insolvency) or is earning interest on my money (which I don't like!). I know it's standard practice in some places but I've never accepted those terms myself, even though some (previous) clients have taken it upon themselves to pay after 60 days.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:52
Member (2008)
Italian to English
90 days May 26, 2011

Richard Foulkes wrote:

anyone who wants 60 days to pay an invoice must have terrible cash flow


All of my Italian clients pay me after 90 days. In Italy this is considered normal. THere's nothing I can do about it.

But they DO pay


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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:52
English to Japanese
+ ...
One advice May 26, 2011

If you are going to pursue your money through a debt collection agency, you must choose a good agency. Some of the debt collection agencies which I had to consult to gave me the same simple replies: The amount is too small to collect (in my case it was 150 Euros).

So gather all the information you can, and pick a good collection agency who would do the collecting on your behalf.

My two cents.


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xxxHeidee
Local time: 05:52
English to Italian
+ ...
make a negative BB entry now May 26, 2011

I'm having an experience like yours and it is with a French agency, too (but the amount is much higher). They said they would have paid my invoices 45 days EOM but actually didn't.
I received the first payment only after I made a negative BB entry and a non-payment report to Proz.com and after that the agency was banned from posting jobs here - and it still is.
I agree with Tom, the BB is an excellent tool and we shouldn't be afraid of using it, and I met a few colleagues here who encouraged me to do so.


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