Everyone goes through hard times now and again in the world of business, but if you work in the credit control department of an office, your job is to make sure that people pay up on time. When this doesn’t occur and customers start to avoid your countless letters and emails, or get their 6 year old child to answer the phone and claim they are not in – you need to decide whether to use third parties or take legal action to recover the company’s money:
1. Can it be justified?
- There’s arguably very little point in pursuing someone over a very small sum because of time and money. If you do choose to write the debt off however, make sure you keep a photograph of the customer in question and attach it to a dart board which can be placed on your office wall.
- If the debt is £20 and the customer usually spends £100,000 a month with you, it might be best to let the matter drop – you can always get the £20 back via an administrative ‘error’ on their invoice at some point in the future.
- Conversely, if you don’t know the customer from Adam, now is a good time to take the gloves off so that he or she gets the message early on in the relationship that you’re not to be trifled with in any way!
2. Debt Collection
- Try to use a reputable debt collection agency rather than the landlord from the Dog and Duck’s cousin who ‘does a bit of this and that’ and is looking for work after being released from a 10 year prison sentence for attempted murder.
- Agency commissions usually range between 8-10% for commercial debts and 3-15% for consumer collections – debts incurred as a result of placing a bet with a colleague over whose favourite football team will finish higher in the league can usually be settled by purchasing them alcohol at the pub after work.
- Make the necessary checks before hiring a debt collection agency on matters such as whether or not they’re registered with the credit Services Union and what type of knuckle duster they like to use.
- Your solicitor or accountant may offer debt collection services themselves although it should be noted that the phrase, ‘that’s it – I’m sending my accountant round to sort you out,’ might not have the desired effect.
3. Statutory Demands
- This can only be used for higher value debts of £750 or more, which equates to roughly 12 visits to your drug dealer or a single evening spent at Spearmint Rhino.
- You should send a formal demand for payment to the debtor and if the debt is not paid within 21 days, you can petition the court to wind up the company or make an individual bankrupt (Please note that ‘winding up’ a company does not involve playing practical jokes on its employees).
- Here at The W1nners’ Club, we’d love to use a statutory demand to recover our debts, but as of yet our sales team have failed to sell more than £750 worth of goods to any single customer!
4. Small Claims Court
- This can be used to pursue a debt of up to £10,000 which equates to a single visit to whoever supplies the person that you usually purchase your drugs from.
- Solicitors are not usually required for the small claims court, although if someone does offer you solicitation in lieu of the debt they owe – this may be something to consider if you haven’t had sex for a while.
- You’ll need to present written evidence to the court that you have tried to resolve the claim prior to proceedings, so keep hold of all those emails you sent full of exclamation marks and entire paragraphs typed in capital letters.
- Once the claim has been served, your customer (now the defendant mwohohohohahahahaaaa!) can respond in one of four ways:
- They can f*cking well pay up for starters!
- Admit the claim or at least part of it.
- Ignore the claim – thus triggering a default judgement.
- File a defence or make a counter claim.
- If the defendant suggests a compromise, you can accept their offer or progress to a hearing in the court.
- It’s sometimes preferable to accept payment in instalments rather than trying to destroy your customer financially just to try and teach them a lesson they won’t forget.
- If you are awarded judgement at a small claims court, you can request that the court enters judgement. This effectively records your legal right to the debt but doesn’t guarantee payment, so you should hold off on organising a pool party complete with male strippers, fire eaters and Krug champagne on tap!
5. Claims of £10,000 or more
- Claims that are over £25,000 (equivalent to a single visit to the person who smuggles the drugs to sell to the person who supplies your usual dealer) can be issued at the High Court – smaller claims can be dealt with in the County Court although it has to be said that here at The W1nners’ Club we can’t think of anyone we like enough to give £25,000 of credit to without at least obtaining their children’s names and which schools they attend first.
- For claims of this size you’ll need to get the wigs involved so it’s time to hire a barrister or solicitor.
- If the defendant issues a defence to your claim, things will start to get a little bit more complicated and you may have to wait up to two years before you go to trial if the amount in dispute is a biggie.
- The losing party will likely end up having to pay court fees and most of the legal costs for both parties, but if you can’t show that you first tried to settle out of court, the judge may order you to pay your own costs – in technical terms this is referred to as, ‘don’t upset the f*cking judge for Pete’s sake!’
6. Enforcing the Judgement
- There are four main ways to enforce a judgement in your favour:
- Warrant (or writ) of execution – the court will send bailiffs to seize goods you own to sell at auction. NB: bailiffs cannot take domestic possessions like a person’s clothes or members of a person’s family eg. their partner unfortunately!
- Third party debt order – your bank or building society is ordered to hand over the amount in a claim from funds in your account, so it’s best to keep it all hidden under the mattress if you owe somebody else lots of money yourself.
- Attachment of Earnings Order – the defendant’s employer has to deduct the claim amount from their salary to be handed over to the court.
- Charging Order – this prevents the defendant selling assets such as a house, stocks and shares or anything they own that could potentially get featured on Cash in the Attic until a claim is settled.
7. Winding Up
- This is where a company is forced to cease trading and its assets are used to pay creditors – if you manage to get to this point, you’ve won!