Well known transport and distribution firms have cropped up in a list naming and shaming both late and serially-late payers of invoices.

The “rogues gallery” included Ceva Logistics, Reed Boardall, Brake Bros and Jack Richards & Son.

However, Leicestershire-based Samworth Brothers was praised for making a big improvement in its payment performance.

Research by campaign group Good Business Pays (GBP) found there had been a 20% increase in companies reporting average payment times of over 80 days, with the largest surge in companies reporting payments being made between 80-90 days.

Ceva Logistics was classified as a ‘serially-late’ payer, having been reported as being a late payer every year since 2018.

In the six months to December 2023, GBP said the logistics firm took an average of 83 days to pay invoices, with 65% taking 61 days or longer.

The watchlist reported Reed Boardall as taking an average of 56 days to pay invoices, with 28% taking 61 days or more.

More than three-quarters (76%) of invoices were not paid within agreed terms.

Jack Richards & Son was found to take an average of 52 days to settle invoices and 25% taking 61 days or longer. Similarly, GBP said Brake Brothers takes an average of 52 days to pay customers, but 51% take at least 61 days.

Unpaid bills

Unpaid bills

Source: Shutterstock

But GBP also said since the last watchlist was published in August 2023, Samworth Bros had gone from paying 67% of its invoices late to just 7% now.

Terry Corby, GBP’s chief executive, said: “It’s encouraging that 19 companies whose names were published in the autumn watchlist have since dramatically improved their payment performance and only six months later now no longer appear on this list.”

The RHA said late payment practices were a significant strain on small businesses, “including commercial vehicle operators who often have to pay their suppliers and other bills on time whilst facing long periods to be paid,” a spokesman said.

“We are pleased to see recent government legislation meaning companies with public sector contracts have to abide by 30-day payment terms within their supply chains for that specific work.

“This will be extended to all the suppliers used by companies as a condition for bidding for large public contracts from April. More needs to be done but this is a step in the right direction.”

Liz Barclay, small business commissioner, said: “I am astonished that any firm thinks that, in a digital age when it’s possible to pay invoices almost instantaneously, it’s acceptable to pay in 90 days never mind 396 or 125.

“Contractual terms of that length are grossly unfair to a smaller supplier, and to pay late on top of that can amount to rubbing salt into an already fatal wound.”

Paul Nieduszynski, CEO of Sysco GB, of which Brake Bros is a subsidiary, told Motor Transport: “We recognise how important our suppliers are to the success of the business and reducing late payment is one of our business priorities.

“We’ve taken some significant steps forward in the past couple of years, introducing new systems to speed up the payment process including investing in new software to automate large parts of the process.

“While the advances we’ve made won’t be recognised until the next report, late payments have already fallen to around 40%.”

Ceva Logistics did not respond to a request for comment, but GBP reported the company as stating that resolution of disputes was handled on a case-by-case basis and it sought to resolve disputes as quickly as possible.

Reed Boardall declined to comment but GBP’s research revealed that the company aimed for a swift resolution on invoice queries, usually within five days. Complex queries were escalated to a senior manager or director.

Jack Richards did not respond, but it told GBP its standard subcontractor terms were 60 days, with all other invoices 30 days end of month from the date of invoice.

Referring to its maximum contractual payment period of 120 days, the Norfolk haulier said: “We tend to pay our suppliers in line with how customers pay us. In this instance our customer pays us on 120 days terms and therefore the subcontractor terms mirror this.”

Samworth Bros also declined to comment.