The creditor, a Gateshead based Commercial Cleaning Company, had provided linen and cleaning services to the debtor, a Durham based Company specialising in short term accommodation. The debt was made up of several invoices for weekly cleaning, which dated back over six months.
The client had repeatedly contacted their debtor over several months to seek resolution, only to be met with the same excuse for non-payment. The invoices were in dispute as there were issues with the cleaning services carried out. However, our client was unaware of any issues, and the debtor had not queried any of the invoices before they became overdue for payment. Their requests for further information were continuously ignored.
A debtor must be able to prove that a genuine dispute exists
When we commenced action the same day as receiving our client’s instruction, the response from the debtor was immediate, and as expected, they regurgitated the same excuse for withholding payment on the basis that there were issues with the services provided. By return, we requested full details of the alleged queries, including documentary evidence to support that the queries genuinely existed, along with copies of the correspondence in which the queries had been previously raised and verified with our client.
The debtor maintained that they were in possession of photographic evidence to substantiate their claims and that this evidence would be supplied to us. It was not, and we continued in our action. A 7-day Final Demand Notice was issued and again the debtor responded with the claim that the invoices were disputed and again failed to supply any evidence to substantiate the claim.
A dispute without evidence is usually spurious
It is not unusual for services to be queried or invoices to be disputed. Often, the query is genuine and can be resolved if both parties maintain communication and supply each other with the necessary information to resolve the dispute. However, if a debtor alleges that there is a problem with the service or goods that you have supplied and then fails to provide you with details on why they believe there is a genuine issue, it is usually a blatant attempt to delay or even evade paying the money you are owed.
It was obvious that in this case, the debtor had no reasonable grounds to continue to withhold payment. The day before the Final Demand Notice was due to expire, we contacted the debtor again to advise that the matter was about to proceed to Court and that the Court would not look favourably on the debtor defending a claim on the basis of a dispute if they were unable to present in Court evidence prove that a genuine dispute existed.
Again, no evidence was forthcoming, however, payment was. The debtor paid the full amount including late payment charges at the 11th hour on the 11th day. The full invoice sums were transferred to the creditor the same day.
The threat of legal action from a third party, especially if that third party is Advocate, is usually enough to resolve a spurious dispute and secure payment.