Changes in the default statutory protection for late payment of commercial debts sees a tightening up on how quickly commercial debts should be settled and greater opportunity to recover costs. In view of these changes, businesses are advised to review their terms and conditions of supply to re-assess whether these give them greater or lesser protection than the default statutory protection on these issues.

The changes under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2013 came into force in March 2013 for contracts entered into after that date.
The key changes to the default statutory protection are as follows:

•commercial businesses will be expected to pay their supplier invoices within 30 days, unless they have both agreed a longer time limit, of no more than 60 days
•statutory interest will now be a minimum of 8% above the European Central Bank’s reference and interest will start to run automatically if the period for payment is not specified, or where it is deemed to be "grossly unfair".
•the interest charges will automatically kick in at 30 days from the latest date of either receiving the supplier's invoice, or of receiving or accepting the goods or services
•unless a ‘reasonable’ longer period is agreed, any purchaser must confirm that goods or services conform with the contract within 30 days
•there is a right to claim compensation for reasonable costs incurred in recovering a debt, when the amount exceeds the established fixed charge sum of 40 Euros.
Explained commercial law expert  Jonathan Goldsmith of Vanderpump & Sykes LLP solicitors:   "It’s important that businesses make sure that their own contract terms, or the terms imposed by the customer, do not override the legislation if they want to make use of it."

"An express term in a contract, providing a substantial remedy for late payment, is still effective to exclude statutory interest under the Late Payment Act 1998 and Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2013, even after 16 March 2013. As well as the tighter control on the length of time customers can take to pay an invoice, the law is on your side to claim a more generous rate of interest on late payments.  It offers a rate of 8% over the European Central Bank rate, which makes it considerably higher than most commercial contracts. But if you have a different rate of interest in a contract, you will not be able to claim the statutory rate of interest, so again you need to check your small print.”

The updated legislation – made under Directive 2011/7/EU - aims to strengthen legislative provisions to tackle the culture of late payments in commercial transactions within the European Union.

For legal advice on running a business, contact: Jonathan Goldsmith, Solicitor, 020 8370 2855