In the title, three things to help with this debacle are mentioned. Now, what are those?
To quote a very competent trainer in the field of import and export, these are – cue drumroll:
You may think what a cheap way to pad out one thing and capture your audience without delivery, but bear with me, because it demonstrates beautifully just how important documentation is for export collection.
I studied international business and languages in Germany and have been working on export collections for more than 12 years, so I have seen many an infuriating scenario that has reminded me of this lesson, time and again.
I remember a court case by a UK supplier against a buyer in Singapore that will help you understand the significance of this. The UK supplier lost the case because the Singaporean debtor insisted that they never ordered the several dozen containers of frozen fish and the supplier had no document to prove that they were in fact ever ordered, although they could prove the shipping and import process was followed impeccably. For all we know the containers, which were at the time sitting in a warehouse at a harbor in Singapore, are still there to this day!
A lot of business is done by handshake in person or over the phone, without calls being recorded, which can work well, if all goes smoothly that is. However, if you find yourself in the position mentioned above, you quickly realise that recovering your money – let alone any additional charges you incur in the process, can be very difficult
The big one here is the contract between supplier and buyer. Terms and conditions (Ts and Cs), Sales agreement, Contract of sale, whichever is showing at the top of the all-important document: this is where many things go pear shaped! Terms being printed on the back of an invoice are problematic. Why? While they provide information as to what the terms the supplier generally trades under, invoices are a post contractual document. They are issued after the offer and acceptance part of a contract coming together - legally speaking. So at the time an invoice is issued, informing about the terms along with this type of document is a little like drawing up a prenup after the honeymoon. This makes them difficult to enforce in court.
Following on from this thought, with the difficulty being in the timeline of the exchange of information, another common way of referring to Ts and Cs is including a link in correspondence where parties can access a pdf or other type of document with the terms via the supplier’s website. If this is mainly to provide information as to what the terms are for anyone who is interested or needs to know more detail, this can be useful.
However, if in front of a judge in a courtroom you present a print out of a pdf as the only written document showing a contract or terms, the judge may reject this with the comment that this document could have been written and printed the night before. There is no evidence that these were the terms in place at the time the order was made, or that the other side agreed to these at that time. This has happened in many court cases I have worked on.
Even if you have swerved the pitfalls mentioned, there may be no clause within your terms which mentions what should happen after payment fails to show up on your account, bringing us back to the main topic.