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UK businesses lose £20bn a year in payments
Late payments and unpaid invoices are losing UK businesses £20bn a year. And in the worst cases, unpaid invoices are threatening the survival of small firms, which are vulnerable to variations in cash flow and often rely on a limited number of customers.

Research from credit reference agency MasterWatch has found that almost half of UK invoices are overdue and 2 per cent are never paid at all. With an average 18-day and rising payment delay in the UK, our survey shows that payment delays are a pressing problem for many UK businesses.

“Many companies fear the risks posed by late payment as this affects cash flow and the availability of working capital,” said a Paul Latham, Sales Director at MasterWatch

The research found that the late payments are often a deliberate decision by debtors to use their creditors as a source of free finance. Legislation has been not yet been successful in eliminating the problem.

The risk of financial penalties for late payments has also failed to deter many debtors, according to the report. It recommends that UK enforcement procedures be reworked to enhance the speed, efficiency and effectiveness of invoice payments.

Businesses are dissatisfied with the current legal situation, says MasterWatch. Of those surveyed, 30 per cent of businesses believe further legislation is needed to enforce late payments. More than 60 per cent of respondents believe that current enforcement proceedings take too long.

“MasterWatchs, credit management systems are an essential part of the process and many businesses could make significant savings with small improvements to their procedures. In fact, with an overall 10 per cent improvement in lost payments, the UK business community as a whole could potentially save £2bn a year,” said MasterWatchs Paul Latham.

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