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Pandemic special

As with everything else about the pandemic, the legal position remains both fluid and uncertain; the best we can do at present is to highlight some of the issues which are likely to arise both in terms of:

(1) the relationship between invoice financiers and their clients; and

(2) supply contracts between suppliers using invoice finance and their debtors.

Before considering some issues which may arise in each of these situations, it may be helpful to set out some general high level comments on various parts of contract law which may be relevant in these circumstances, and which include terminology which may be misunderstood and is likely to be discussed amongst financiers and clients in the coming months.

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Invoice Financiers and the Financial Ombudsman Service

On 1 April 2019 the jurisdiction of the Financial Ombudsman Service (“FOS”) was extended to include additional categories of eligible complainants such as more SMEs and individual guarantors of loans. The FCA has also indicated that it intends to increase the limit of an award which can be made by the FOS under its compulsory jurisdiction scheme from £150,000 to £350,000, probably sometime later in 2019.

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Funding Credit hire and Credit repair

The Credit hire and credit repair industries and ancillary services provided to claimants in “no fault” accidents have traditionally been regarded as challenging sources of business for invoice financiers, but there are signs that financiers are becoming more comfortable with the risks involved.

It is fair to say that these industries have over recent years been subject to a number of measures by the Government in attempts to reduce overall insurance premiums, but they continue to display a sense of innovation.

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Credit Protection Revisited

The recent decision by one of the main bank owned invoice financiers to withdraw from the provision of credit protection has highlighted a continuing debate within the industry on issues arising from the interface between bad debt protection on the one hand and the provision of insurance on the other hand.

It is now widely understood within the industry that the provision of insurance is a regulated activity under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (“FSMA”) which requires providers to be authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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Bills of Sale escape extinction

The Government recently announced that it does not intend to legislate to implement the September 2016 Law Commission proposals to modernise the archaic Bills of Sale regime:

“Given the concerns that were raised in the consultation, the small and reducing market and the wider work on high-cost credit, the government will not introduce legislation at this point in time. The government will continue to work with the FCA as they carry out their high-cost credit review, and then further consider government action on alternatives to high-cost credit in light of the FCA’s review”.

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GDPR Bedding In

It has been almost 6 months since the GDPR regime came into effect, and early signs would suggest that the invoice finance industry has adapted well to the new requirements.

As expected there was something of a last-minute rush to ensure compliance, but fears were perhaps eased by helpful comments from the Information Commissioner such as she made on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 25 May 2018:

“We are not looking for perfection. We do not have thousands of inspectors going out and checking people’s homework. What we do have are millions of people that have new rights and they can make a complaint against a company to our office”.

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