The cheque’s in the post . . . but what to do if it doesn’t arrive?

Are you still paid by or do you occasionally accept cheques?

There were 405m cheques written in the UK in 2017, according to the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company, which manages the cheque clearing system. The number is declining, though it still represents a sizeable proportion of individuals and businesses who have yet to wholly abandon the paper slip.

(As a business we use electronic payments now but I fondly remember the cheque-books I had in the 1980s and 90s which featured lovely pictures of otters or tigers as a means of encouraging you to go cash-less. Times move on . . .)

One of our clients has just handed us a large number of accounts to chase up, many of them involving cheque payments, and our general sense is that payment by cheque is becoming slightly more problematic with people using it as a delaying tactic which can stretch on for months.

Unsigned or undated?

For those of our clients who are regularly paid – or, more accurately, not paid – by cheque, the system holds various frustrations. Cheques can get ‘lost in the post’ or take an abnormally long time to arrive, once posted, it seems. They arrive unsigned or undated or words and figures differing. And they might bounce, potentially incurring costs for both payer and payee (admittedly, this is now rare: just half of one per cent of cheques are returned unpaid in the UK, the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company says).

When a cheque-non-payer is passed to us, we write to the person or company and are looking for a quick response – payment straightaway, plus administration and debt recovery costs. Depending on how much time has elapsed since the payment was due, we might also ask for interest. If it helps, we will take payment by other methods, such as debit or credit card.

If they can’t pay – rather than won’t pay – we might, with the client’s say-so, offer them the option of paying in instalments or paying an amount less than the total.

If they still aren’t responding, then we will wave the possibility of court action at them which often galvanises people into action.

If you’re having trouble with cheque-payers, who are treating the writing of your cheque like an optional action rather than a business requirement, then get in touch and ask how we can help.

Email [email protected]