Managing non-payment

Last updated 22 May 2019

For exporters, managing payments due is an important part of trading successfully and profitably in international markets. It is vital that businesses manage this process just as carefully as they would when dealing with domestic clients.

There are some key points to consider in managing non-payment successfully.

Pre-sale

When negotiating sales, be clear about your expectations regarding payment and make sure these are covered in sales documentation (e.g. contracts, price lists) and agreed in advance. Ensure that payment terms have been fully understood by the customer.

Invoicing

  • when invoicing, be explicit about when payment is required (e.g. by a specific date or a period of days after the date of the invoice)
  • make sure that your export invoice has clear details about how to make payment, including bank account details, and provide contact details for any queries

Once a payment is late

  • follow up immediately as soon as a payment deadline is missed
  • establish the cause of non-payment e.g. issues with documentation, customer complaint or concern about the quality of the product or service delivered, financial constraints, insolvency
  • seek to resolve as a matter of urgency issues relating to documentation or product quality, so that this is no longer an issue for payment
  • if the reason for non-payment is financial, consider whether a short extension of payment terms will help to resolve the situation. This needs to be done in the context of the long-term profitability and value of the relationship
  • you need to make a claim on your credit insurance, if you have it
  • consider using specialist international debt collection agencies, although be mindful that costs can be significant. Information about these agencies can be found from your bank, other financial advisers or credit insurance specialists