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Payment reminder: politely phrased (free samples & templates)

Should you really formulate a payment reminder politely? After all, you need the money - and the customer had enough time to pay. Or?

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  1. How polite should a payment reminder be?
  2. Why write a payment reminder?
  3. Difference: reminder vs. payment reminder?
  4. Payment reminder: Put politely
  5. Examples of polite payment reminders
  6. Payment reminder template
  7. When can I send a payment reminder?
  8. Conclusion: A polite payment reminder helps with customer loyalty

1. How polite should a payment reminder be?

It happens again and again that a customer - otherwise paying so punctually - has not transferred the invoice. What to do now Outstanding payments are unnecessary work for most businesses. But you shouldn't let the customer feel that? Maybe he just forgot to transfer the bill. A harsh reminder, with further legal action there, would probably induce the customer to pay. However, he would have been our customer for the last time. So what to do

2. Why write a payment reminder?

If a customer is in default, a company must point this out. The most polite and friendliest way to do this is by giving a payment reminder. Especially with a nice formulation, you can also tell good customers that you are still waiting for the money.

No company can afford a lot of outstanding debts, and lengthy legal proceedings only cost time and money. Therefore, it is better to kindly - but firmly - remind customers of the outstanding debts. It also happens very quickly. Once a good, long-standing customer has been sent a blatant reminder - this customer is already looking for the distance. No company can and will not afford that.

But what is different about a payment reminder and is it even legally reliable?

3. Difference: reminder vs. payment reminder?

A legally binding reminder should set the customer in default. Because only when there is a default in payment, the creditor has the right to initiate a dunning procedure. There are no precise provisions as to how such a legally secure reminder should look in detail. In a judgment from 1998 (Az: X ZR 70/96) of the BGH it was stated:

Every clear and specific request in which the creditor unequivocally expresses that he is demanding the performance owed counts as a reminder to justify default.

This means that “reminder” does not necessarily have to be on the letter. That is why it has become common practice in Germany in particular that the creditor sends his customers a “payment reminder”. This doesn't sound too harsh. The believer can formulate them in a friendly, polite and nice way. From a purely legal point of view, this payment reminder is already the first reminder. But the customer (who may really just have forgotten to pay) is not offended.

If the customer does not react to the payment reminder, a first and a last reminder will follow. After that, the obligee takes legal action. Legally, he could take these steps after the (polite) payment reminder. However, this is hardly recommended. There are enough customers who forget to pay even after the payment reminder. Even if this means unnecessary work, as long as these are good customers, the entrepreneur should do this work for himself.

4. Payment reminder: Politely phrased

Formulating a polite, legally compliant payment reminder is not that difficult. The payment reminder, no matter how polite or friendly it is formulated, only needs to include the requirement of a legally binding reminder.

These would be:

  • Creditor: company (including address)
  • Debtor: customer (including address)
  • any existing customer number
  • the date of the unpaid invoice
  • the amount owed
  • the bank details

The first - polite - payment reminder should, however, ignore the following points:

  • Payment term
    Since we just want to write a nice and friendly reminder, we don't need a payment deadline
  • possible consequences
    We still refrain from doing this, as we don't want to lose customers who have simply forgotten to pay.

5. Examples of polite payment reminders

These three examples of polite payment reminders are meant to show that it is definitely possible. Nice and lawful can be brought under one roof. You are welcome to use these templates and change them according to your circumstances.

A very brief and polite reminder to pay

Dear customer (enter your name),

You have surely overlooked the invoice from xx.xx.xxxx and have therefore not yet settled the amount.

We ask you to make the settlement as soon as possible.
With best regards

A more detailed, nice payment reminder

Dear customer (insert name),
For the invoice number XXXX from XX.XX.XX we have unfortunately not been able to determine any receipt of payment. You are sure to have missed the fact that you have not yet paid the bill. We have enclosed a copy of the invoice with the letter.
I kindly ask you to transfer the outstanding invoice amount of XXXX euros as soon as possible.
With best regards

A very detailed, polite payment reminder

Dear customer (insert name),
After checking your customer account, we found that the amount listed below had not been paid by the due date. We have enclosed a copy of the invoice with the letter.
Since we have not yet heard from you, we hope that you were satisfied with our services. If there are any complaints in this regard, please let us know.
Otherwise we ask you to transfer the amount due as soon as possible.
If you have arranged the payment in the meantime, we ask you to regard this letter as irrelevant.

6. Template for a payment reminder

If the payment reminder templates above are polite and nice enough, you can download two templates here.

7. When can I send a payment reminder?

Especially when unpaid bills pile up, entrepreneurs want to remind them very early on.

  • But how early can you even remind you of an unpaid bill?
  • When is the right time for a payment reminder so as not to annoy the customer?

If a customer has not paid an invoice in the specified payment period, the entrepreneur can quickly send a payment reminder. However, it is not recommended. It's easy to annoy your customers with such business conduct. Unfortunately there are no legal guidelines. However, it has become common practice to give a defaulting customer at least one to two weeks' time after the payment deadline has expired.

If you want to specify a payment deadline in the payment reminder, it should be ten to fourteen days. Usually, however, no date is mentioned in a payment reminder.

What to do if the debtor does not respond to a payment reminder?

While the majority of debtors pay after receiving a payment reminder, some usually stay over. With these debtors, one has to go one step further. If the customer has not paid after the friendly payment reminder has been received, it is time for the - no longer so friendly - reminders.

Theoretically, the - friendly - payment reminder is sufficient to initiate a dunning procedure.

Even if the company could initiate a dunning procedure immediately after the payment reminder, very few do so. Because even if the debtor is already in default after the payment reminder, the entrepreneur usually wants to prevent the judicial dunning procedure. This dunning procedure is expensive and time-consuming, so it is only advisable for customers who you no longer want as (other) customers.

That is why most companies write at least two more reminders before proceeding to the judicial dunning procedure.

What is the timing of such an out-of-court dunning procedure?

  • Payment reminder (= polite, first reminder)
    • send about 10-14 days after the payment date
  • second reminder
    • about 10-14 days after the payment reminder
  • Third reminder
    • after the deadline stated in the second reminder has been exceeded by 5 - 7 days
  • initiate judicial dunning proceedings
    • after the period mentioned in the third reminder has been exceeded by 5 - 7 days

Depending on how consistently the reminders are sent, at least 30 to 42 days can elapse before the judicial dunning procedure is initiated. If a customer has not paid during this time, he will probably no longer want to pay voluntarily.

Fees & default interest for the reminders

A creditor can demand default interest as soon as a debtor is in default. This is generally the case 30 days after the due date and receipt of the invoice. However, the obligee can set a shorter deadline.

After this period, the creditor can charge default interest. According to the German Civil Code, the default interest is five percent above the base rate if a consumer is involved in the legal transaction. If this is not the case, nine percentage points above the base rate can be charged as default interest.

Example: With a base interest rate of currently - 0.88% (October 2020)
4.12% default interest is due for a consumer.
This interest on arrears is to be calculated for an entire year.

The fees for a reminder are intended to ensure that the company is reimbursed for all costs that it would not have without the reminder. This means that you can offset costs for paper, printer cartridges (proportionately), envelope and postage.

8. Conclusion: A polite payment reminder helps with customer loyalty

A polite payment reminder is more than just a way to collect money. This polite payment reminder definitely shows the written - defaulting - customers that they want to keep them as a customer despite the delay in payment.

If the customer does not react to this payment reminder, the tone can - and must - become sharper, because non-paying customers do not need a company. Whether a judicial dunning procedure is initiated at the end depends on the individual case. The effort is usually not worth it for smaller amounts.