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Most businesses experience some problems getting paid on time by their customers. Good credit control helps to prevent this becoming a serious problem.

However, there are occasions when a customer cannot, or will not, pay. To avoid a bad debt, you may need to take legal action to recover the money you are owed.

There are no hard and fast rules about whether to pursue a debt and which approach to take. Some points to consider are:

  1. How much money are you owed?
  • In terms of time and money, it may be best to write off very small sums, but the Small Claims Track offers a relatively quick and simple route for debts under £10,000.
  1. Who is your customer?
  • If it is a customer whose business you value, you may want to be diplomatic in your approach.
  • If it is a one-off customer, you can be more assertive.
  1. Why has the customer refused to pay?
  • Is there any dispute over the goods?

If so, pick up the telephone or even better go and see your customer but resolve it immediately. Otherwise, the debt will be difficult to recover.

  • Does the customer have cashflow difficulties?

If so, try to negotiate a payment on account (part payment) and reschedule the remainder. Confirm this in writing.

  • Are there already outstanding judgments against the customer? If so, the debt may well be irrecoverable. Check the Register of County Court Judgments, Orders and Fines.


If so, the debt is probably irrecoverable (but make sure you register it with the debtor’s Trustee in Bankruptcy just in case payments can be made to creditors).

If the customer does not have a good reason for not paying, you may opt to pursue the debt.  

For specific advice on your circumstances, please contact Stacey Humm on 01905 723561 or e-mail

Added: 23 Mar 2016 12:46

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