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Complaints

Factoring Rates can differ dramatically from lender to lender. We will have a look at what variables impact on the pricing of a factoring facility and then we will look at why some factoring companies are more expensive than others.

What impacts on the service fee?

The service fee is what the lender charges for administering your facility and it is typically determined by workload. This is dictated by the number of debtors you have an also the number of invoices you issue. Turnover also has a huge impact on your service fee and typically the higher your turnover the lower the percentage service fee.

The discounting fee, what impacts on this?

This is the cost of borrowing and it should reflect the risk the company is taking. The total fee is made up of the base rate and the margin. Some lenders use the Bank of England base rate while others use LIBOR. Watch out also for the minimum  base rates which a lot of lenders put in place. The margin is often dictated by their credit policies and with negotiation can often be reduced.

These are the 2 main fees but it is important to be aware of additional fees and charges. Always consider total costs when looking at different offers. Please also consider what service is actually on offer and ensure it meets the needs of your business. Factoring rates are obviously important but so are service levels and facility structure.

We often receive inquiries from clients who are keen to transfer from one lender to another because the credit control is poor.

I am afraid to say that often the provider accused of providing a poor service is a bank owned factoring company. However, when we ask how the factoring company was chosen there is also a common theme. They were either chosen because that is who the business banks with so it was a default choice or because they were the cheapest.

Without going to the market it is almost impossible to understand what your options are. If you don’t understand what your options are then how can you make an informed decision?

If you have chosen the very cheapest option then are you really surprised that the service does not quite meet your expectations? Would you expect free champagne on an Easyjet flight or free home installation from Ikea. No, of course you wouldn’t.

Typically with credit control from a factoring company you will get what you pay for. The larger bank owned factors will typically fully automate their credit control and it will be done by automated letters and month end statements. They may call your largest debtors but it will be a hands off approach.

Other factoring companies will provide a hands on credit control service where they call each debtor and have open communication with you the client. This however is time consuming and as such the cost for such a service is more expensive.

When choosing a factoring facility it is important to understand what level of service you expect and choose a lender accordingly.

There seem to be several invoice finance brokerages appearing that are linked to insolvency practitioners. Only today I was asked by a client of mine why this was so I thought a post may be due on the topic.

In short the insolvency practitioners see the invoice finance leads that give to lenders as a carrot to attract insolvency work from the lenders. In fact some of the IP owned brokers will only give leads to lenders if they give them insolvency work in return. I have seen some e-mail marketing from one such broker offering 2 new deals to a lender in return for a ‘fee generative appointment’.

Reciprocity is a buzz word in many industries these days and the invoice finance industry is no different.

However, in my opinion it does raise concerns for business owners who approach these brokerages looking for independent and impartial advice about factoring or invoice discounting. There is every chance that the business will simply be placed with the lender that they ‘owe’ a deal to. If this is the case it means that they are not really acting in the best interests of that client.

As an invoice finance broker it is interesting to hear the complaints I hear from clients about invoice finance companies. Some I may add are totally unfounded and relate to the invoice finance company not agreeing to an overpayment or something that they shouldn’t have to do. However, some seem to follow a common theme and these were highlighted in a forum by the Federation for Small Business.

I want to explore some of the themes that were raised:

  • Hidden costs and unexpected fees – it would be fair to say that not all invoice finance companies are as transparent as they could be in relation to fees. We often see agreements where a minimum base rate is hidden in the small prints. Lists of dispursements are also rarely shared at first meetings which makes comparison of facilities almost impossible. On that basis headline rates can be misleading as some companies have virtually no additional fees.
  • Restrictions on funding. I think this complaint often boils down to a lack of understanding on the clients part and poor communication from the lender. It is imperative any company entering into an invoice finance agreement understand what invoices are eligible for funding. In my mind I believe that should be explained properly by the lender at the outset.
  • Termination fees. This seems to be a thorny topic at present and relates to the fees charged should you wish to leave early. The justification of these fees relates to the fact that the costs of setting up a facility are typically incurred either at commencement or even precommencement by the invoice finance company. As such it takes the contract period to recover these costs and turn a profit. Should a client look to leave early then they incur a loss. However, fees such as arrangement fees, legal documentation fees and survey fees have crept into the industry. On that basis surely the initial set up costs are paid for by the client upfront. If this is the case I am not sure early termination fees can be justified.
  • Collect out fees. This is a fee applied to the ledger upon the failure of the business. Some lenders apply a 15% fee the gross value of the ledger when the company fails. Is this excessive? In some instances most definitely. I saw a bank (one that is now government owned) charge a collect out fee on a ledger where there was actually no borrowing. The implications to business owners is often minimal and it is creditors and often HMRC that lose out on the funds being taken. However, where there is a shortfall and a personal guarantee has been given it could cost the directors personally.

I am sure that there are more complaints from many clients but overall I would maintain that the vast majority of invoice finance clients are happy. there is obviously always room for improvement.

From my perspective it just seems a shame that the same invoice finance companies get mentioned time and again and seem to become notorious for certain practices. It can give the industry at large a bad name.

Factoring agreements are typically for 12 month periods with either a 3 month or 6 month notice period.

However, there are companies offering factoring with no minimum contract.

You could opt for a trial period, a rolling 28 contract or a rolling 3 month contract. Smart Factoring Quotes can help you access all these types of agreements.We will also explain in full the fee structure so you have a full understanding of what you will be paying.

We understand the invoice factoring market and all that it can offer. We also understand the frustrations that businesses face when looking to set up these agreements. We understand how to get you the invoice finance facility that you want.

As an invoice finance broker I speak with a lot of businesses who are looking for cash flow solutions for their businesses.

It would be fair to say that their is a real mixed reaction towards invoice finance and especially factoring. A lot of this relates to the perception that factoring is a last resort and I would argue that this is certainly no longer the case.

However, having read various posts on several forums their seem to be some common complaints about factoring companies. These include hidden costs, actual prepayment not been as high as quoted headline rate, reserves and retentions, lengthy contract periods and poor service levels. Unfortunately in a lot of cases I feel that this business owners do have a valid case.

Another area that received a lot of publicity on the FSB forums is the hefty collect out fees and early termination fees that can be levied by lenders. These can often be totally out of sync with the work load required to collect in any outstanding debts and many view these charges as opportunistic.

If you have any valid complaints and you wish to air these experiences we will accept posts on this forum – please use the comment box below. However, we will not allow “witch hunts” so please do not name individuals and please try to stick to the facts.

Factoring – Common Complaints

Speaking to business owners on a daily basis there seems to be some common complaints about factoring services, factoring companies and the process involved in setting a facility up. I wanted to visit some of these:

Over promising and lack of transparency at the outset – invoice finance companies are typically sales driven and as such the individual sales people are targeted to close deals. This can in many instances lead to promises being made that simply can’t be delivered. There are also instances where perhaps certain costs and restrictions are not as well explained as perhaps they should be. This can be very frustrating when a business has signed up for a 12 month contract and they are not getting what they expected. The industry remains unregulated and as such once pen has been put to paper and a contract signed it is hard to get out of an invoice finance contract. The key is to understand up front what is on offer and the help of an invoice finance expert can be useful.

Hidden costs – quite often all the costs involved in a facility are not explained. Headline rates can be deceiving as they can detract from the total costs involved. Such hidden costs include minimum base rates, disbursements, minimum service fees, arrangement fees, audit fees, etc.. It is imperative total annual costs are compared when looking at different quotes.

Poor service levels – when factoring you are paying for a credit control service as well as a finance facility. It is important you understand what this service includes as some lenders will simply send out automated letters and month end statements and in many cases this may well be enough. Some lenders will actively chase debts with telephone calls which will yield a better result. Service levels also include the general administration of the facility and if not done properly the facility may not perform as you had expected. Some lenders are notorious for poor service levels and should be avoided at all costs.

Lack of communication – most business owners are used to dealing with what is thrown at them but if factoring companies change goal posts without advising clients this makes it harder. There are a couple of invoice finance companies who I could name where I know a client is unlikely to return a call. I know because I have had the same complaint from several clients and unfortunately I have experienced it myself at the hands of the same factoring companies. The reasons behind the lack of communication includes; employees being over stretched, simple lack of service focused approach at the lender, arrogance and simple bad manners. It boiled down to bad service and again we have some notorious culprits who say one thing and do another or simply never say anything at all. To avoid bad service do your homework from the outset and select an invoice finance company you can trust. Seek references but remember that lenders will only put you in touch with happy clients. Look on forums and blogs to see what you can dig up but remember passionate bloggers will typically always be the ones complaining and there are typically two sides to very story.