Chinese, German and American firms highlighted in ‘league of shame’ debtors

Survey shows which countries are worst at settling bills

Business Insight have released figures following a survey of 11,000 invoices from UK firms sent to overseas clients that show almost half were paid late.

Top of the list of the nations traded with was the United States of America – which doesn’t bode well for a USA-UK trade deal post Brexit. On average invoices were paid an eye-watering 51 days late according to the research in Market Finance published by Business Insight this month. And perhaps surprisingly Germany was the next offender by on average paying UK firms more than a month past their usual settlement terms.

These figures will send alarm bells ringing in accounts departments across the country as they can cause huge cash flow problems. Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said the survey had returned depressing news as (only in exceptional circumstances) should invoices be paid late.

Next in the league of shame is Belgium whose firms on average pay their UK invoices 18 days late although it’s a major improvement since 2018 when they were the worst late payers of all with invoices paid more than two months past their due date. Following Belgium are most other European countries who settle their bills around two weeks late include Ireland. While Switzerland and Italy were slightly better than the rest of Europe.

There are some pretty disturbing trends with the USA highlighted as a problem nation but China is the worst in one context with 84% of all invoices paid late. That’s a black mark as the average invoice to the Asian super economy is £37,000. In Europe the Germans are the worst offenders with 71% of all invoices paid past the normal terms of settlement with an increase in this bad practice since 2018. Ireland enjoyed the largest level of invoices with an average of £60,000 with half the invoices paid nearly two weeks late.

Ian Carrotte said: “This is incredible and totally unacceptable. Our members have flagged up issues with German firms before and I feel it is more to do with bad habits and suppliers accepting this is the way they work. However a law passed in Germany in 2014 stated if you trade within Germany then you must pay within 30 days of the invoice – not 30 days after the date as is happening to British companies they trade with.”

Mexico and South Africa have a lower percentage of late settlements, around a fifth but those invoices are paid on average more than a month late. India and Singapore are similar in terms of percentage of late paid invoices and they take around two weeks to settle their accounts past the due date.

Bilal Mahmood, of MarketFinance, commented: “The US-China trade war and Brexit uncertainty in 2019 haven’t helped to create a harmonious global trading environment for UK businesses. Indeed, it’s quite possible we’ve lost ground as negotiators on the world stage. An impression which has seeded its way to industry.”

Ian Carrotte said: “Late payment is a cancer and has sent many a firm to the wall. ICSM Credit members keep us informed of the worst offenders and can keep everyone in the loop – and late payment is often a portent of a company collapsing so it is vital to know who is not playing by the rules.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website or email Ian at on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

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