Study Predicts Better Customer Payment Habits in UK, EU?

A new study by the United Kingdom-based branch of Dun & Bradstreet suggests updates the European Union Late Payments Directive already are having an impact on payment behavior, at least in Britain.

D&B’s statistics noted that British businesses borrowing on terms paid their bills on aggregate two days faster in 2012 than in the previous year. At an average of 17-days late, British businesses’ tardiness on terms reached a record level in 2011, said D&B. Directive updates in the EU, last done in summer 2011, represent an important legal development designed to ensure the payment of business-to-business invoices is conducted within 60 days, and public authority-to-business invoices within 30 days. In theory, it is a win for suppliers. But there some potentially conflicting fallout exists, as D&B noted:

"This legislation makes it easier for businesses to pursue payment, with debtors being forced to incur interest and pay an administration fee if they fail to pay for goods and services within 60 days for business and 30 days for public authorities.  Whilst it will help protect some businesses [suppliers], the updated Directive presents new risks for companies [customers] struggling to manage their finances and pay on time, due to the potential interest liability risk."

In addition, to assume the directive will drastically improve payment habits within the debt-struggling EU may be a bit of a leap of faith. Though talking about the potential for EU-wide changes to bankruptcy/insolvency laws not the Late Payment Directive, a point made by Thomas Voller, an attorney with Germany-based Voller Rechtsanwälte and member of EuroCollectNet, could be considered. This is the case in part because, as Voller put it, there really isn’t all that much unity, from a continuity sense and legal perspective, in the euro zone.

“There is a tendency in the European Law to try to unify the rules and to find a common applicable law for all European states in some areas,” he told NACM for the international bankruptcy-focused article “Moving Targets” in the May edition of Business Credit (available next week). “Obviously, this is extremely difficult, and it works only in some special fields.”

Whether B2B payment is one of those fields perhaps waits to be seen.

-Brian Shappell, CBA, NACM staff writer

Officials from the European Commission will be attending and exhibiting at FCIB’s Annual International Credit and Risk Management Summit at the Corinthia Hotel in Prague next month and will be hosting an information seminar on Late Payment Directive at the same venue following the conclusion of the FCIB conference on May 14 at the same venue.

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