Alternatives to legal action

Before taking legal action on a payment issue, it's worth considering alternative steps to resolve the problem.

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When the debt remains unpaid but the amount owing is not disputed

If the customer does not dispute that money is owed, and the amount of the debt is not in dispute, consider instructing a debt collection agency.

Organisations working in debt collection include debt recovery agents and credit agents. These are not the same as bailiffs and cannot repossess goods without a court order.  

What does debt collection involve?

Debt collection agents can engage solicitors and take legal action to recover your money. Some credit agencies, though not all, will completely take over the collection of debtThey usually try to recover debt by sending out routine letters (such as late payment letters) and telephoning customers.

If successful, you will receive an agreed proportion of the total amount owing, while the agency will keep the rest.

There is an industry association of debt recovery agents, the Credit Services Association. Its website lists the members. 

When the customer disputes the amount due

There are several alternatives to issuing legal proceedings where the customer accepts that money is owed but disputes the amount due.

Mediation/debt compromise: an independent person helps the two parties to find a solution to the problem. Any agreement reached is entirely voluntary, which means the parties cannot be forced to stick to it. The claim may still end up being resolved through the courts and your debtor will need to be willing to engage in this process.

Arbitration: an independent arbitrator hears both sides and makes a decision. Arbitration is binding on both sides, and the parties cannot got to court after an arbitrator has made a decision.

Statutory demand: the creditor issues a statutory demand, warning of an application to court for the formal winding up of the customer’s business, if payment is not made within 21 days. This is quite a radical step and only to be taken if the relationship with the customer has broken down irretrievably.

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