Debtors beware. Online exposure isn't what you need
Another grand idea born of the Internet revolution
This is another one of those great Internet ideas - an online debtor list, searchable by world+dog and with some handy services tied on. Debtlist.com will host a database of outstanding debts and even initiate a court case against the debtor if it doesn't cough up in time.
The site has been carefully put together, is simple to use, legally watertight and will no doubt be of great help to many businesses, especially small businesses, for whom debt chasing is a difficult and costly job. This is how it works:
- A company is overdue in paying you money
- You inform the company but it still fails to pay (so far, so normal)
- You register with Debt List, giving your details and details of the debt. You hand over £25 + VAT for its services (credit card).
- Debt List fires off a letter to the company informing them that unless it pays in 28 days, their name will be put on its publicly accessible list.
- If, seven days before the deadline, the company still hasn't coughed up (you as the instigator are legally obliged to remove the debtor's name from the list as soon as it pays), Debt List will send another, stronger letter.
- If there is still no action, the company's name and debt details are put on the site for 28 days - longer if you want to pay (£15 a week).
There are a whole host of other niceties involved in this setup. You can, for example, ask Debt List to start court action against the company as soon as the due date passes. Debt List automatically passes the details to its solicitor, Edwin Co, which deals with it from there. As the complainant, you are not required to do anything except pay the usual costs of the claims court.
You'll also get a discount if you register more than ten debts in a month. From 11 debts onward, it'll charge you a reduced rate of £15 (+VAT). We are very impressed with this site and think it is a great example of modern technology put to good use.
There are queries of course. Director Philip Hollingdale was happy to expand. The company has been advised that listing bad debtors on the site and giving a history of pervious bad debts was "inappropriate" - which is a shame, but understandable (we think it should change its mind regarding a history of registered debts though). Instead, anyone is able to type in a company's name and view its record for that month.
Philip acknowledged that it didn't have many people using the service at the moment, although we agree that this is fair enough seeing as we've only just heard of it. His hope though is that companies informed of a bad debt will then use the service themselves.
In the interests of being fair to both bodies, debtors are given partial access to the registered debt and can select one of several options in response.
All this comes as a result of legislation brought out last year that legally entitles businesses to charge an interest rate above current rate on any debts over 30 days. The idea was to help out the cash flow of small businesses, but as has been agreed by everyone involved, the law will only be as strong as its implementation. Hopefully this site will strengthen that. ®
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