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Commercial debt recovery cases

Examples of our recent work

International debt recovery for a local authority

We have been working with a local authority in London since 2011. Whilst many of our cases for this client are relatively straightforward, there are some exceptions. One more complex case involved a debt of over £300,000 owed by a company registered in Malaysia.

The company held assets in England so a winding up petition could be issued in the UK. However, we needed to apply for permission to serve the petition outside of jurisdiction in Malaysia. We established the requirements for service in Malaysia and once permission was granted, we liaised with lawyers there to effect service. The winding up order was subsequently made and the trustee has confirmed a significant payment will be made to creditors.

Using a charging order to secure repayment of a debt

One of our longstanding clients is one of the UK’s largest wholesalers. They have a network of regional depots serving c.90,000 retail outlets and make over 50,000 deliveries every week. One of the cases they asked us to help with concerned an outstanding debt of £6,000.

After receiving no response to our initial attempts to recover the debt, we discovered that the debtor owned the property they were trading from. We advised our client to apply for a charging order and a writ of control, allowing us to instruct a High Court enforcement officer (HCEO) to enter the premises to seize, and if necessary, sell any assets.

It emerged that the value of the assets was insufficient to repay the debt in full and we agreed a repayment plan with the debtor, who subsequently defaulted on their repayments. When the HCEO revisited the property they found that another person, who claimed they had bought the property from the debtor, was now trading there.

This was unusual; normally a property buyer will require all charges to be paid off before a sale is completed, and our charging order was still in place. Further investigations revealed that the new owner had bought the property with full knowledge of the charge.

We advised our client to apply for an order of sale to force the new owner to sell the property and repay the outstanding money. On the day of the hearing, the new owner conceded his position and paid the debt in full together with all costs.

Going the extra mile; debt recovery in a motor insurance claim

We recover uninsured losses following road traffic accidents, against both insured and uninsured third parties, for one of the UK’s largest motor insurers. Whilst many of the large number of cases we handle for this client are relatively straightforward, we also deal with more complicated and unusual instructions.

In one such case, it came to light that one of our client’s customers had been provided with false details following a collision with a third party. It transpired that the details provided by the third party at the scene of the accident did not match the details of the car’s registered keeper. Furthermore, the registered keeper denied that his vehicle had been involved in an accident and invited our client to inspect the vehicle. The inspector found no evidence of damage, but did note a new front number plate.

Our client instructed us to investigate if it was possible for us to recover their losses from any party.

Our client’s customer had taken photographs of the collision. One of these showed the paint colour and broken number plate of the offending vehicle. By checking all possible variations of the registration number and a process of elimination, we were able to establish that it could only belong to the registered keeper’s vehicle. Despite this further evidence, the registered keeper still denied his vehicle had been involved.

We discussed the case with our client and agreed to issue court proceedings. The registered keeper now changed his story and admitted that his vehicle, driven by his son, may have been involved in the accident.

We successfully applied to the court to amend the claim, and also sought wasted costs against the registered keeper for failing to disclose the driver’s details. After further defended proceedings against the son, judgment was obtained, and recovery made of our client’s outlay and our costs.

This unusual case demonstrates how when dealing with a debtor who is deliberately trying to avoid his responsibilities, going the extra mile to uncover the facts and a persistent approach can ensure a successful outcome.

Debt recovery for an energy supplier with no forwarding address for its customer

Our client supplies gas and electricity to UK individuals and businesses. In one case referred to us, bills sent by our client to a customer had been returned by the Post Office marked, ‘Addressee gone away’. Our client was concerned that without a forwarding address, the debt may prove difficult to pursue.

Our first step was to use a tracing agent to find out the debtor’s new address. Once we had this, we were able to write to the debtor and request payment. When we received no reply, we started legal action and issued a claim for the debt amount of just over £2,000, plus costs and interest.

The debtor still did not respond, so a judgment in default was entered against him. When the debtor failed to make payment, we obtained a writ of control to enforce the debt and instructed a High Court enforcement officer (HCEO) to attend the debtor’s property. The HCEO took walking possession of goods to the value of the debt.

This finally prompted the debtor to contact us and, rather than see his goods sold, he offered to pay the full claim amount in three monthly instalments. We accepted his offer and our client was delighted at the successful outcome of the case.

Legal action prompts payment once internal recovery procedures are exhausted

With 170 depots located across the country, our client is one of the UK’s largest recycling, renewable energy and waste management companies.

Our client usually passes cases to us when their own internal procedures have been exhausted. The examples below highlight how when faced with a debtor who is simply stalling, appointing a firm of solicitors to start legal action can successfully prompt payment.

In one case, we were instructed on a debt of £50,000 that was three months overdue. Our client believed that the unresponsive debtor was simply prioritising other debts. We wrote to the debtor to request payment and warn that action may be taken to wind up the company if the debts could not be paid when they fell due. Shortly after, the debtor got in touch with us and full payment was received in less than two weeks.

In another, case we were instructed on a debt of over £50,000 that was six months overdue. After not receiving any meaningful response from the debtor, our client asked us to send a letter before action. This prompted the debtor to begin direct negotiations with our client, despite there being no genuine dispute about the monies owed.

When negotiations broke down, our client agreed with our advice to issue a claim. Less than two weeks later, we received payment in full, including costs and interest. Our client was extremely pleased at the speed with which we were able to recover the debt, and at no cost to themselves.

Recovering disputed debts under a deemed contract

Our client, a leading supplier of gas and electricity to businesses across the UK, asked us to pursue several outstanding invoices for gas supplied to an SME. As we received no response to our initial correspondence, we issued court proceedings for the outstanding debt of just over £4,000, plus fixed costs and interest.

The debtor submitted a defence to the claim. It was based on the grounds that there was no signed contract, the charging rate was unreasonable and the invoices were based on estimated reads.

The claim proceeded to a small claims hearing where we successfully established that as the defendant had refused to sign a contract with our client, the gas was supplied under a deemed contract.

We further argued that as deemed contract charges were regulated, they had to be considered reasonable. We also confirmed that an estimated read was legally enforceable. This was further supported because we established that the start and the end reads were actual reads, and therefore accurately reflected the gas consumed over the billing period.

We won the case and the court entered judgment for the full claim amount plus court fees, fixed costs and interest. To our client’s satisfaction the debtor accepted the judgment and paid in full.

Using a charging order to recover a debt secured with a personal guarantee

Our client was owed £109,000 by a company whose credit terms had been secured by the company director with a personal guarantee.

Upon receiving no response to our initial attempts to recover the debt, we issued court proceedings. The director filed a defence alleging, amongst other things, misrepresentation and a lack of consideration in relation to the personal guarantee.

We were able to quickly rebut these allegations and made an application for summary judgment. On receipt of this and our supporting evidence, the director made a full and final settlement offer of £60,000; £10,000 to be paid immediately and the balance of £50,000 to be paid within 12 months.

Our client accepted the terms of the offer. However, in the formal consent order, which records the agreement and disposes of the claim, we insisted on inserting a provision giving our client a charge over the director’s property and a right to request judgment for the full amount of the claim if the director did not maintain the payments.

The initial payment of £10,000 was made, but the director failed to repay the £50,000 within the 12 months agreed. Relying on the provision in the consent order, we requested judgment for the full balance of the claim.

This was successful and the director subsequently paid the full balance of the claim from the proceeds of the sale of the charged property.

Contact a debt recovery lawyer

To find out more about how our team of debt recovery lawyers can support your business, please contact one of our experts directly or send us an email.

Clarke Willmott has offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton. We are members of the Civil Court Users Association (CCUA) and provide commercial debt recovery advice to organisations across the UK.


Friendly, approachable and extremely knowledgeable.

The Legal 500 2023

The team at Clarke Willmott is extremely knowledgeable and have been able to provide us with excellent support for a number of years now.

The Legal 500 2023

Your key contacts

Philip Roberts

Partner and Head of Debt Recovery

Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton
Phil is a Chartered Legal Executive and Partner in Clarke Willmott’s Debt Recovery team specialising in defended debt recovery litigation and insolvency actions.
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Stuart Hoysted

Senior Associate

Stuart specialises in complex actions on both an individual and volume basis including taking insolvency action against individuals, partnerships and corporate entities.
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