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Nearly half of all debts and late payments (41%) owed to businesses are as a result of customers forgetting to pay them, rather than more expected reasons such as not having the means to pay, according to new research.

Specialist outsourcer Echo Managed Services found that late payments were, in fact, most common among more affluent customers. Forgetting to pay was the biggest issue among those in higher income brackets, with almost half of people that have missed a payment in the £40,000+ salary bracket stating it was for this reason. This is compared to 28% in the under £10,000 salary bracket and 37% in the £10,000 to £19,999 bracket.

An additional three in five people earning over £40,000 annually have missed a payment to an everyday service provider at some point.

The research also found that one in three people with debts over 60 days late were in more financially stable situations, with 13% being some of the more wealthy and highly educated in society, classed as ‘affluent achievers’ or ‘rising prosperity’ in Acorn classifications.

After forgetting and not being able to afford it, the most common reasons for late payments were an incorrect amount or misunderstanding the bill (26%), redundancy or loss of job (12%), loss of earnings due to ill health or incapacity (7%) and withheld payment for poor service (6%).

Monica Mackintosh, customer services director at Echo Managed Services, said: “The UK’s mounting debt problem is an issue which can’t be ignored – latest figures from The Money Charity put total debt in the UK at the end of March 2016 at almost £1.5 trillion. It’s therefore essential that, in order to resolve this, we begin to look more closely at the spread of, and reasons for debt, before the challenge gets even greater.

“Our report reveals that the socio-economic spread of debt is much more varied than many might think – clearly everyone has the potential to fall into arrears, regardless of income and demographic. As a result, it’s crucial that businesses trying to recover monies owed take a much more tailored and proactive approach to collections and use detailed customer profiling so the most appropriate solution can be aligned with each individual customer.

“Early intervention and proactive multi-channel customer communication can be extremely effective in helping to mitigate avoidable debt - such as forgetfulness, withholding payment in protest, or non-payment as a result of inaccurate billing. For those customers with genuine affordability issues, offering a range of achievable payment options and signposting to impartial debt advice is crucial.”

You can find the full report here.