Picking Up a Taxi Debt after 4 Years

Advocate has recently recovered £800 on behalf of a telecoms provider who hadn’t been able to get payment out of a London-based taxi operator for the last four years. Whilst other parts of the contract had been fulfilled, the remaining balance was in respect of a taxi freephone unit installed in a medical centre. As call records showed, the freephone provided an excellent return on investment and generated considerably more revenue than forecast. Mid-way through the contract, the direct debit came back as Refer to Payer. After several assurances and further bounced direct debits, the instruction was cancelled, and the contract terminated, leaving our client with £800 of invoicing and a now unresponsive debtor. A rival taxi operator swiftly took over the lucrative freephone unit.

As a casualty of staffing levels and management changes not keeping up with rapid growth, our client did little other than issue periodic statements and phone calls for the next four years. When legacy debts became a boardroom priority, Advocate were instructed to recover payment. Our first contact with the debtor revealed a name not familiar to our client. That’s when we started to put the pieces together and gain an understanding of why our client had been ignored for so long.

Family Fortunes

Shortly before the direct debit bounced in 2019, the taxi firm was sold to another family – something Companies House was able to validate. The new owners took the decision to focus on airports and train stations. They had no use for the medical centre’s freephone. With dad managing drivers from the cab, and son running the bookings, there was no one looking after suppliers!

With the previous family out of the picture and no accounting records to support our client’s contract, the current owners initially refused to accept liability. They also denied receiving chaser emails, phone calls or statements. Thankfully our client was able to provide an electronic copy of the contract along with a 2019 email and a couple more recent reminders. In a bid to buy more time, the debtor informed us of a dispute, but when pressed for the details, they backtracked and opted to propose payment over five months. When Advocate pushed back, sighting the timescale as unreasonable, the debtor U-turned again. Finally, payment over two instalments within a much shorter duration was agreed upon. The statutory late payment charges incurred in settling the debt four years late were also paid in full.

This case is proof enough that invoices going back several years are still recoverable and are still worth pursuing.

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