Dutch businesses are strong in collecting invoices

Dutch businesses who supply to companies, have relatively little trouble collecting money from customers, according to the Payment Barometer, which Atradius published Thursday.

An Atradius Credit Insurance survey of 1758 businesses in nine EU countries found that 10% of foreign B2B invoices and 8% of domestic B2B invoices are written off as uncollectable by the seller.

These percentages spiked to 18% for both foreign and domestic invoices in Italy and 18% for foreign and 14% for domestic invoices in Great Britain. Despite disproportionately long payment terms respondents from Spain reported that only 1% of foreign invoices where uncollectable, but was the only country surveyed in which payment default was more likely on domestic receivables. The Netherlands had the lowest percentage of uncollectable domestic receivables (3%).

While an uncollectable invoice represents the worst case scenario for a supplier, the uncertainty of when they will be paid is also a factor making cash flow management tricky. Approximately 30% of invoices were paid late with 11%-12% more than 60 days overdue. The impact is being exacerbated by an increase in the use of credit over the past year to increase sales as economic growth returns.

To combat this, most respondents (76%) have increased dunning, outstanding invoice reminders. However, with more than 75% of respondents citing an insufficient availability of funds as one of the most common excuses for payment delay, the possibility that late payments will become payment defaults is fairly high. Respondents from Belgium and France had a more defensive approach to this and were the least likely in the survey to offer credit.

In respect to the length of payment terms, Northern European respondents clearly set shorter terms than Southern European respondents. On average, respondents from Denmark and Germany set the shortest domestic payment terms joined by Sweden in respect to foreign payment terms. This however was no guarantee of timely payment. While Denmark and Sweden had the lowest percentage of overdue domestic payments Germany had the highest percentage. Late payments in these markets however tended to be paid sooner than in other countries as they were the three countries with the highest percentage of late payments made within 30 days of the due date and the majority of these were paid within 15 days.

Isidoro Unda, CEO of Atradius commented; “With economic growth recovering, businesses are anxious to build sales. The feedback of this survey however confirms historical patterns persist wherein payment defaults and insolvencies remain at an elevated level in the first years following a recession creating a very dangerous period for suppliers of products and services. Atradius itself has increased its risk acceptance to accommodate our customers’ growth aspirations, but we have a database of information on more than 60 million buyers worldwide, underwriters across the globe who assess buyer default risk daily and an international network of collectors who understand the legal system in the country of the debtor and can therefore maximise the likelihood of recovery of the outstanding debt. This combination allows our customers to sell their products and service with the confidence that Atradius credit insurance will protect them from payment defaults of their buyers.”

The Atradius Payment Practices Barometer is a semi-annual survey of payment practices and behaviour of businesses engaged in B2B sales of products and services. The complete report is available in the Publications section of the http://www.atradius.com website.

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