A customer refuses to pay me, what should I do ?
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Create and send your invoices easily. Create your own invoice templates, send them to your customers, and keep tabs on your finances.
An unpaid bill can put a strain on your cash flow. This article will help you establish processes to prevent this from happening and, if like many companies, you are in this situation, you should know that solutions exist.
First of all, it should be remembered that Article 1315 of the Civil Code requires you to prove that you have not paid. In other words, this is equivalent to proving the existence of a contract.
How do I react when a customer refuses to pay me?
Although it is not always easy, from a purely relational and commercial point of view, courtesy remains the key word. In some cases, if it is not clear, it may be appropriate to understand why your customer is refusing to pay you.
The customer is unhappy with the work you have done and disputes your invoice: do not hesitate to check internally whether the specifications have been respected. A contract can only exist if commitments are reciprocated, so if you have not fulfilled your part of the contract, the client is entitled not to initiate payment . However, if you have not done so, the client is under a simple obligation to pay the invoice.
Note: there is no legal time limit for disputing an invoice, but case law indicates a period of 6 weeks to a maximum of 2 months after receipt as a “reasonable period”.
- The customer is facing financial difficulties: in this situation you can choose whether or not to grant an extension of payment. If your cash flow allows it, this may be the best way to ensure payment, provided of course that it is limited in time, so as not to put you in difficulty. Finally, if you have the opportunity, do not hesitate to inform your client of any external aid that may be granted.
- Your invoice is incomplete or inaccurate: you can always draw up a correction as proof of your good faith to the customer and to the tax authorities. In order to avoid this kind of disappointment, check that the compulsory details are respected (see the next part of the article)
I lock my business processes to protect myself against payment refusals
My commercial documents: proof of the reality of the order placed
The quotation  or the order form gives the customer the opportunity to observe your prices beforehand. It will also enable you to protect yourself by confirming the contract between you, in particular with the general terms of sale. In particular, you can include :
- A penalty clause for a sum due in the event of non-payment on the due date.
- A clause limiting the time limit for customer complaints.
- An arbitration clause to submit disputes with customers to arbitrators appointed by mutual agreement.
- A jurisdiction clause, in order to designate in advance the competent jurisdiction in case of dispute.
- A resolutory clause, which allows the contract to be cancelled.
Invoices: I check that the compulsory information is included
This step is time-consuming, especially when you issue a large number of invoices. That’s why Sofacto can help you with a reliable and automated check.
Discover the list of legal information that must be included in your invoice.
If you have included a clause to this effect, include late payment penalty rates directly on your invoice (be a deterrent). This will allow you to demand them without a reminder in the event of non-payment on the due date.
Note: if you have any doubts about the client, you can always ask for guarantees or a deposit (between 30 and 45% of the total amount).
What recourse do I have if I am refused payment?
To contact the customer, you will have to choose between the telephone, e-mail or letter. The telephone can provide a quick response, but it is always better to have written proof. In any case, be determined, always courteous and explain your constraints in a transparent manner, while reminding them that they are liable to late payment penalties (if you have provided for any). You should also know that Sofacto offers you the possibility of automating your reminders so that you can concentrate on the essentials on a daily basis.
2. Letter of formal notice
This is the first legal act. It must be sent to the customer by registered mail with acknowledgement of receipt. You can write it yourself, but it is better to use a debt collection agency (it is often more dissuasive).
3. Amicable collection
The same collection agency that wrote your letter of demand can carry out what is called amicable collection on behalf of others (you), by establishing a constructive dialogue with the debtor. This kind of service has a cost, but it is undoubtedly much lower than the cost of legal proceedings. In particular, this company can set up a payment schedule with your customer.
4. Assignment of claims
Without needing the debtor’s agreement, you can choose to sell the debt. The buyer can then pay you the amount owed to you in one go, taking a commission in the process, and will take care of the collection independently.
5. Forced collection
Start by calling in a bailiff or a lawyer, who will compile a file. An injunction to pay can then be put in place . If necessary, if the customer persists in not paying the bill, you can file an interim writ of summons , or even a writ on the merits .
Note: there are a number of insurances that allow you to secure your cash flow and protect you against bad payers.
According to a study carried out by Altares, only 43.6% of companies pay their invoices without delay and, according to the company ombudsman Pierre Pelouze, when there is a delay or refusal to pay, half of it is due to the non-compliance of the invoices. The error is often human, so think about automating your invoicing to reduce the risks as much as possible.
1] According to Article 1315 of the Civil Code, the person who claims to be discharged must justify the payment or the fact that produced its extinction. In other words, in the event of a dispute, each party must provide irrefutable proof.
2] The estimate is compulsory for all amounts exceeding €1500.
3] This is a letter from the judge without a court summons, giving the client one month to pay or appeal.
4] The debtor is summoned to court (usually within a month).
5] You summon the debtor to appear before a court, this may be the start of a trial.
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