Poor payment persists

The latest late payment data from Experian, published 7 August, showed that businesses paid bills on average a day later in Q2 2013 than in the same period in 2012.

The average time taken to settle invoices was 24.58 days beyond terms from April – June 2013 (2012: 23.46 days). Compared to last year, the UK’s largest companies (501+ employees) were dragging their feet even more, with an increase of three days taken for settlement; 34.19 in Q2 2013, up from 30.91 in Q2 2012. Geographically, businesses in the North West of England took the longest to pay – 31.14 days.

However, the figures were actually an improvement over the previous two quarters. Settlement was 24.65 days late in Q1 and 25.63 days in Q4 2012.

Overall, smaller businesses were the fastest payers. Sole traders and two-person businesses paid in full just under three weeks late (20.78 days). Geographically, companies in the South West were the best, settling after 17.54 days – a clear week before the national average.

In terms of industries, the most virtuous were in the ‘sin sector’ – spirits, wine and tobacco, who paid in 9.7 days beyond terms – but that was a whole day slower than in 2012. They were closely followed by wholesome agriculture, forestry and fishing businesses, who improved their payment performance by more than a day to 10.36 (2012: 11.45). The worst offenders were in the Postal and Telecommunications sector, who exceeded terms by well over a month – 44.37 days. This was not an improvement over 2012 – it was almost a day slower.

Max Firth, UK Managing Director for Experian’s Business Information Services division, said: “Between March 2009 and June 2012, the UK’s largest firms saw the biggest improvements in their payment performance.  Although these firms are paying their suppliers faster than they were in 2009, the slowdown in payment over the past 12 months will be felt by the wider supply chain.

“Smaller businesses should consider spending time and resources to ensure they get paid on time.”