Price and service information – debt recovery
To understand how we approach pricing for this area of our work it’s important to know what we and others class as “debt recovery”. Where do we draw a line between that and commercial litigation or, more widely, dispute resolution?
The first key point is that we are looking at debts which arise from an agreement or contract, whether that’s written or verbal and whether the relevant terms are expressly agreed or implied by law. We are not dealing in this category with claims for damages for negligence (e.g. injury claims) even where these might arise from a contractual relationship such as employment, rent and other property claims, building (construction) disputes or anything else.
Typically, the case will start as a claim by one party that money is owed for the provision of goods or services and it’s the response of the debtor which determines whether we should look at it as debt recovery or commercial litigation.
If there is no response to demands for payment or the reasons given for not paying are weak – whether factually or as a matter of law – then we class it as a debt recovery matter.
The main requirement of us is going to be to pursue a series of actions that meant the requirements of rules and practice directions, including pre-action protocols that govern court proceedings in England and Wales.
If the facts, evidence, law and procedure are all relatively simple, it will be a ‘debt recovery’ matter. If any of those factors are complex, then it will be ‘litigation’. Many of the stages will be the same as debt recovery, but there will be more time spent exploring the evidence and the law, advising on options and the strength of the case, preparing ultimately for a trial etc.
Our guide to pricing aims to identify the key actions that are likely to be required even in the simplest of matters. We recognize from experience that we may not be involved from the very outset but we start with the assumption that you are going to instruct us at the point where nobody knows any more than that you haven’t been paid for what you did or delivered.
There are various approaches to this and different price models, some of which are purely a matter of preference. The important thing to remember is that everything in this category is prior to formal court proceedings and does not include insolvency procedures (see below).
In some circumstances, there may be no choice but to follow certain procedural steps if you want to avoid cost penalties and subsequent proceedings. We will identify those situations for you.
Pre-action protocol for debt claims
If you are pursuing payment from an individual, including a sole trader, then there is a good chance that you will need and want to follow the requirements of this protocol. For more detailed information see our article Time to pay.
From our point of view, there’s always more work involved than simply writing a letter that says “you owe £X – pay up or proceedings will follow”. It’s a requirement that we explain how the debt arises, with reference to contractual documents, and provide full particulars of interest and any costs claimed.
These vary in complexity, and sometimes require a fair bit of work to calculate the balances and interest. Allowing for advice to you on what can be claimed, the strength of the claim and the detail required for the initial demand the likely range of cost is between £200 and £500 plus VAT. Typically, it is at the lower end of £250 to £300.
If you are not dealing with a sole trader or individual, there might be a similar cost involved if there are some potential issues to discuss and advise on before we get started.
If not, and it’s just a case of sending a formal demand which shows your debtor that the matter has been escalated and is on the verge of formal proceedings, we can deal with this at a much lower unit cost or even on a contingency basis (see below).
For a single case, straightforward demand without any complex interest calculations or background advice, it will cost in the region of £50 plus VAT.
If you have a batch of similar cases then we can reduce the cost. Typically, it will come down to £20 per item for batches of 10 to 20 and if more then the unit cost can be even lower.
This is no win, no fee for debt recovery. It applies strictly to pre-action work and only in cases where there has been no dispute raised or compelling argument put forward.
We will charge you, if we are successful, a percentage of the sum recovered. Rates are negotiable but on a sliding scale from 10% in relation to small debts down to 2% for larger debts. The percentage calculation does not include the VAT.
Whilst the work done does not extend to court proceedings, if we subsequently had to issue proceedings and the money is then recovered, then in addition to any costs for that work the commission on the pre-action work will become payable.
If we can’t recover and the matter goes no further, we don’t charge you. The extent of the work we do, which may include correspondence, telephone calls and in some cases a face to face negotiation, will be entirely at all discretion. We have to be able to decide the cases in which we feel in all the circumstances that we are no longer prepared to invest further speculative time and effort.
Issue of proceedings
The following table sets out a range of costs, court fees and total charges for the issue of a claim form in the county court or high court.
The figures given for our costs assume one defendant, a single invoice and the simple calculations of interest at the bottom of the range. All figures for costs exclude VAT. There is no VAT on court fees.
One or two additional defendants, one or two additional invoices and simple extra provisions for e.g. contractual costs may be done within the price range given at our discretion.
Court fees are based on the fees currently payable to HMCTS, as at December 2018.
The charge covers preparation of a claim form, separate particulars where necessary, supporting documents and interest calculations where necessary.
We also report to you and monitor for issue of the proceedings. This can take between 14 and 28 days according to levels of business at the court office.
Any subsequent action is outside the range of the charge. This will be covered either by the costs table on entry of judgment (see below) or where there is negotiation or a formal defence of the claim, on the basis of actual time spent and charged in accordance with our published hourly rates.
Issue of proceedings
Claim value £
Our costs £
Court fee £
25 – 500
50 – 150
35 - 50
85 - 200
500 - 1,000
70 - 150
140 - 220
1,000 - 5,000
80 - 200
80 - 205
160 - 405
5,000 – 10,000
100 - 250
555 - 705
10,000 – 100,000
250 - 500
750 – 5,500
Entry of judgment
In uncontested debt recovery proceedings, judgment is either entered in default of an acknowledgement of service or a defence or it is entered in response to an admission with or without an offer of payment.
There is no further court fee payable at this stage. Our work in completing the request for judgment in default including calculation of interest to be added since issue of proceedings and a further fixed costs allowance is charged at £40 excluding VAT.
Our work in completing the request for judgment where the claim is admitted, and including the above information but also responding to the offer of payment, is charged at £70 excluding VAT.
Once you have a judgment, and only then, you will be able to take enforcement action in one of various forms.
We may well have considered this with you at an earlier stage, particularly in the context of a higher value debt (in an effort not to spend good money after bad).
At whatever stage the enforcement options are considered, we would normally advise on this within a budget of £200 to £250 plus VAT. This contemplates advice on available procedures having regard to existing knowledge of the debtor and assets and will include if necessary some basic desktop enquiries.
The figure does not include the fees payable for some searches. These will generally be modest - £3 to £6 for ownership of land, £6 for county court judgments, £10 for probate searches etc.
Charges for specific methods of enforcement appear in the table below. These anticipate in each case completion of the initial applications and subsequent procedural steps to obtain the necessary orders.
The charges do not include additional work arising from contested applications, negotiations that ensue, further instructions to court or enforcement officers. All figures for costs exclude VAT. There is no VAT on court fees.
Typical cost £
Court fee £
Attachment of earnings
High court enforcement (formerly Sheriffs)
Order for questioning
Third party debt order (garnishee)