Don’t Mention the War Debt Recovery

When our client started producing sustainable garden furniture and fence panels 25 years ago, they were something of a unicorn in a field of horses. Today, the Merseyside manufacturer supplies retail and trade across the UK with a focus on treating customers like family. Five months ago, they delivered £11k of eco-fence panels to a builders merchant serving businesses and domestic DIYers in the Greater Manchester area. Between the previous directors and current owners, our client had traded with the merchant for 22 years so there was naturally a desire to maintain a cordial relationship.

Warmongering

Despite copy invoices, POs and PODs being sent on numerous occasions, the £11k remained outstanding at 100 days overdue. With no indication of payment our client’s patience had been exhausted. Advocate issued a Notice of Court Proceedings within an hour of receiving the instruction. Upon making first contact, the debtor tried to dismiss us and claimed the intervention was unnecessary. With the demand for payment reaffirmed, they realised Advocate was not going away. Having been furnished with the invoices and PODs one final time, the builders’ merchant claimed turnover had declined sharply because of the outbreak of war. Greater Manchester is no warzone, in fact the nearest armed conflict is 1,700 miles away. The thought of armed forces commandeering Manchester builders and DIYers for the front line really is a stretch of the imagination! Having ceded the point, the debtor next tried to claim their customer base was made up of two opposing ethnic groups who avoided the shop to maintain the segregation enforced by war in their homelands. A basic internet search revealed these ethnic groups made up less than 5% of all construction firm owners and consumers in Greater Manchester. The debtor went on to make some libellous claims about the client but quickly retracted them when put on notice of our observations and potential legal repercussions.

Peace Treaty

Irate debtors are nothing new for Advocate. There is an art to diffusing the situation and bringing the focus back to payment, which is exactly what happened here. Irrespective of the real reason, there was evidence on the debtor’s credit file that cash flow was tight, and the benefits of refinancing were starting to show. Advocate negotiated a provisional payment plan with the debtor before presenting the client with the option to accept payment over four weeks or proceed to court with the full costings outlined. Ever gracious and conscious of their commercial footprint, our client accepted the payment plan. In maintaining regular contact, Advocate ensured the full £11k plus £1.6k of statutory late payment charges was received over four equal instalments. Both client and debtor have agreed to draw a line under the matter, with trade resuming but on a pro forma basis for a minimum term of 12 months. This was another successful commercial debt recovery by Advocate.

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