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Covid-19: the health crisis is extending payment delays, especially for SMEs



As the health crisis grows, economic worries also persist. Payment terms for companies, which had improved in recent years in France, have lengthened with the crisis caused by the coronavirus epidemic due to a very sharp increase in terms for SMEs, according to the latest study by the ARC cabinet published on Tuesday, October 20.

Thus, if the average late payment rose from 10 to 13 days between 2019 and 2020, that of SMEs jumped from 10.9 to 18.6 days, according to this annual survey carried out among 500 companies with more than 50 employees in the September 1 to 18 by the Ifop institute for ARC. Lots of SMEs “have totally blocked the payment of their bills” since March, Denis Le Bossé, president of this firm specializing in debt collection, told AFP. Thanks to loans guaranteed by the State, many companies have “sufficient cash”, he says.

Invited by the ARC cabinet to react to this study, the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, indicated that he would “bring together, sector by sector, the large companies that give orders” in order to make an objective inventory of the situation. “If it is necessary to set up mediators each time (…), we will do it”, like what has already been done in aeronautics, he added. To remedy a problem that threatens the survival of the most fragile companies, 84% of companies are for the creation of a rating “payment terms” to know the behavior of their future partner, according to the study.

The Minister of the Economy said to himself “favorable” to this idea, which will have to “be dug, worked (…) when the period will be a little quieter”. Only one in five companies dares to claim the planned recovery costs in the event of late payment, most often “for fear of damaging the commercial relationship”.

The large groups stand out, however, with an average late payment which rose from 8.9 days last year to 8.1 days in 2020. It is the payment terms of these groups vis-à-vis subcontracting SMEs that have shortened by two days, while delays between large companies have lengthened by more than three days.

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