By Daniel Hunter
A Gosport businessman who appeared on BBC radio this week to discuss the problems late payment causes for small firms has revealed he is still waiting for an invoice to be settled three years after completing the job.
Peter Darcy, who runs Peter Darcy Industrial Training Services on Brockhurst Road, featured on BBC Radio Solent’s business breakfast show on Wednesday where he spoke out over late and slow payment of invoices by big business, and how the practice can damage smaller firms’ ability to trade.
Peter, whose business involves training forklift truck drivers and crane operatives, says he frequently spends hours chasing payment for services rendered, and reveals incredibly how one invoice remains unpaid more than three years on.
“It does tend to be the larger firms that are the worst offenders for paying late,” he said.
“Very often it’s not on purpose, an invoice comes in and it floats around an office for months before you even get in touch to say: ‘why has this not been paid’. You then find out it’s been sitting in somebody’s in-tray or has gone to the wrong person.
“But there are businesses who do it on purpose and like to make you wait. At the moment I’m waiting for a big shopping centre to pay after three years. They even got in touch recently and said they had some retests to do, but when I said they still hadn’t paid me for the first job they couldn’t find any record or even the right person to ask. I don’t think I’m going to get paid that one.
“What I’m finding now, certainly more in the last two or three years, is that firms are being taken over and when the new owners come in you have a job getting paid.
“Again, it’s often not that they don’t want to pay, it’s that the person who is dealing with it doesn’t care, or doesn’t realise the impact their not paying has on a small firm. Or it’s simply that the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing.
“It ends up that I often spend valuable time having to chase invoices just to get paid what I’m owed. Fortunately, I’ve never put all my eggs in one basket as it’s too risky."
Recent research carried out by the Forum of Private Business, a not-for-profit small business support organisation, suggests 51% of small firms have experienced late payment over the last 12 months. Of these, 23% cited late payment as a ‘serious’ problem, with 16% saying they have almost been put out of business as a direct result.
“Peter’s story is a familiar one,” said Forum spokesman, Robert Downes. “Late payment is a serious issue, as our latest research suggests. The fact Peter is still waiting for an account to be settled three years on, is though, quite disgusting, but is probably a tale familiar to more small business owners than you think.
“Whatever the reasons big business give for not paying on time, deliberate or not, is of no concern, and is frankly unacceptable. They need to understand that paying late has a direct consequence on many small firms’ ability to trade, and can ultimately force them out of business. It has to stop.”