Introduction

We’ve all been there. An invoice lands in your inbox but something just doesn’t seem right. Maybe the amount is wrong, the service wasn’t delivered, or there’s a detail you simply can’t agree with. The question becomes: how long do I have to dispute an invoice in the UK? Do disputed invoices have a deadline?

In this guide, we’ll cover the ins and outs of disputed invoices, how long you have to dispute them, and ways to avoid invoice disputes in the first place so you can focus on your core business.

Let’s first take a look at what a disputed invoice is so we’re all on the same page.

What are Disputed Invoices?

Ever received an invoice that raised a red flag? An invoice dispute is a situation where a client disagrees with or finds a discrepancy in the invoice they have received.

These discrepancies can range from simple typos to more complex issues like dissatisfaction with the service provided. Here in the UK, some common reasons for invoice disputes include:

  • Mistakes on the invoice
  • Quality issues
  • Disagreements on terms and conditions
  • Misunderstandings
  • Unclear payment terms.

No matter what the issue is, the important point about invoice disputes is that the client doesn’t believe that they owe the amount they’re being asked for. 

But don’t panic! The key is acting quickly and following the right steps.

What To Do When You Disagree With An Invoice

There’s no escaping invoice disputes. No matter what business you are in, they are bound to happen at some point. The key is having a clear process when they do occur.

So, if you’ve received an invoice you disagree with and want to dispute it, here are the steps you should follow.

1. Review the invoice carefully

First things first, double-check all of the details against any agreements or contracts you have in place. This includes the service description, quantities, prices, etc. If you’re going to begin an invoice dispute, you must cover your own bases first and ensure your side of the dispute is watertight.

2. Gather evidence

Compile any documents that support your case, like emails regarding the service, order confirmations, or proof of non-delivery. These are essential in backing up your side of the dispute and will also be necessary if you decide to open formal legal proceedings.

3. Contact the issuer

Once you have completed these steps, it’s now time to get in touch with the issuer of the invoice. Clearly and professionally explain why you’re disputing the invoice. Be specific about the issue and reference any supporting evidence you have gathered.

How Long Do I Have to Dispute an Invoice in the UK?

In reality, there’s no single legal deadline for disputing an invoice in the UK. However, there are ways to be courteous and fair while still taking action towards finding a solution. 

Acting fast is always a good idea. Here’s why:

  • Courtesy and goodwill. Informing the issuer promptly (ideally within 7 days of receiving the invoice) shows you’re not intentionally delaying payment and opens the door for a smooth resolution.
  • Preserving your rights. The longer you wait, the harder it might be to gather evidence supporting your claim. Emails, contracts, or delivery records often become more difficult to locate as time goes on.
  • Faster resolution. Early communication benefits everyone. It allows the issuer to investigate the issue quickly and potentially avoid late payment fees for you.

Without a legal deadline to go by, our best course of action is to try our best to avoid invoice disputes. In the next section, we’ll share some expert advice on how to do this. 

How To Avoid Disputed Invoices

Working with public sector clients can be rewarding, but smooth invoicing is crucial. The best way to ensure timely payments from public sector clients is to avoid disputed invoices. 

Here’s how you can minimise disputes:

Clear contracts

Start with detailed contracts outlining project scope, deliverables, deadlines, pricing, and communication protocols. This sets expectations and reduces misunderstandings. Of course, keep your own copy handy for reference.

Open communication

From the get-go, establish regular and transparent communication. Update clients on progress, potential delays, or scope changes. Explain unexpected costs before sending the invoice, ideally in writing. Consider calling before sending the invoice to prompt a timely review.

Accurate invoices

Double-check everything! Ensure invoices are addressed correctly, billing information is accurate, contact details are provided, costs match agreements, and services/goods are clearly itemised with relevant taxes included. 

Detailed records

Keep meticulous records of all project documents, including contracts, communication, changes, incidents, and late payments. This is vital for resolving disputes and avoiding future conflicts.

Quick resolution

If a dispute arises, prioritise resolving it promptly and effectively. Actively listen to client feedback and rectify errors to maintain a positive relationship.

Read our guide on How to Avoid An Invoice Dispute for a more in-depth look.

Disputed Invoices: What Next?

Disputed invoices are bad for business, affecting cash flow and using up valuable resources. Of course, the longer they last, the greater the negative impact.

By following these steps, you can avoid late payment on disputed invoices, ensuring smooth payments and building strong business relationships.

Has your business received late payments from the public sector? If so, you may be eligible to make a late payment compensation claim

At Late Payment Action, our team of experts can support you in getting well-deserved compensation for each late payment you receive. Without the pressure of late payments, you can continue to grow your business from strength to strength. 

Try our free eligibility checker today to see how much you can claim back.

Computer with invoices - How To Avoid An Invoice DisputeHow To Avoid An Invoice Dispute
Handling Invoice Disputes With Public Sector Clients