Q: I have just started up a small business and, like many people, am struggling to get clients to pay promptly. I’ve considered levying interest charges on customers who don’t pay their invoices on time. I did this in the past with a previous company and was quite successful. I pretty much levied what I wanted – and, as often as not, I wrote off the interest to secure a contract renewal. However, I’m not as up to speed on the latest regulations in this area as I should be. Is there a problem with this approach?


A: You’re right to get in touch. As a matter of fact, the days of striking an arbitrary interest rate ended on March 16, when the Late Payments in Commercial Transactions Regulations of 2012 came into force. These rules apply to commercial transactions in both the public and private sectors.


Essentially, they set out that an interest rate is payable in the event of a late payment for commercial transactions. In fact, interest being payable in the event of late payments is now an implied term of every contract entered into after March 16. Under the regulations, a payment is regarded as late when 30 days have elapsed, unless an alternative payment period is set out in a agreed contract. It is possible, if both parties agree, to extend these payment terms up to 60 days, but the period can only be extended beyond 60 days if “expressly agreed” by the parties in the contract.


So now, you have a solid legal basis for a late payment interest policy. The regulations, however, set an interest rate for late payments – unless otherwise agreed, this is the European Central Bank main refinancing rate plus eight percentage points. If the rate is, for example, 0.5%, this equates to an 8.5% annual interest charge or 0.023 % per day. This penalty interest should be calculated on a daily basis, and you can see the European Central Bank main refinancing rate easily on www.centralbank.ie. If you want to levy different rates, it will have to be by agreement.


You are also entitled to compensation for debt recovery costs, even without the necessity of a reminder. The flat rates chargeable under the regulations are €40 for invoices of less than €1,000, €70 for invoices between €1,000 and €10,000 and €100 for invoices over €10,000.  It’s best practice to inform clients that interest and compensation for recovery costs will be charged on late payments under the new Regulations.


So, as a supplier, you are now legally entitled to be paid interest on any amounts outstanding and compensation for debt recovery costs. It remains your right, however, to decide how (or if) you want to recover this debt. In other words, if you want to write off these late payment fees to secure contract renewals, that’s entirely your right.


If you’re having consistent trouble collecting cash, you might be interested to know that we offer credit control services. Justcontact us to set up an initial, no-obligation meeting if you’re interested.


Do you have a question for DCA’s experts? Contact us or connect with us on Twitter.