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Small Business and the Small Claims Court (UK)

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So, how easy is it for a small business in England to recover debts from non-paying customers?

As a small business owner I hoped I would never have to find out, but this could just be about to change.

I was contacted in June 2005 via the contact form on my website: the project involved copy-typing a document the customer supplied in hardcopy; he accepted the quote and sent the document via post. I duly typed up the document and sent him the digital version. Once he’d received it and accepted the work as complete, I sent an invoice for the grand sum of £183.19 payable within 14 days. After several gentle e-mail reminders I sent a reminder via registered post. He responded some several days later saying he couldn’t afford to pay, and could he pay in installments? I wrote back saying it wasn’t usual policy, but as he was in difficulty he could pay in two instalments – one due immediately, the other in 30 days time.

No payments were forthcoming, and there has been no response to my last e-mailed demand for payment.

Work and a lot of procrastination techniques have delayed my doing anything further, then came Christmas, the New Year, and… now?

Well, now I’ve decided it would be a good exercise to take this non-payer to the Small Claims Court here in the UK, but where do I start? Everyone I ask has a different response: it’s not worth the hassle; it’ll take up all your time; you’ll never get the money if he’s broke; it’ll cost you more than he owes you; go ahead, I did it and got my money; it was easy; etc, etc.

I also thought it might be useful to keep a record (or ‘blog’, if you will) of the process, cost, and time-scale involved, and I’ve decided to do this online for the reference of other victims of that all elusive irritant, the non-payer.

That’s the background dealt with. My next entry will describe the first steps I’ve taken to recovering the debt. Wherever possible I will try to include a link to any online resources I’ve found pertinent.

Wish me luck…

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