Prompt payment is a commercial discipline which requires businesses to:
- agree fair and reasonable payment terms with their suppliers
- ensure suppliers' invoices are approved and paid within agreed terms
- encourage adoption of the same practices throughout their supply chain.
It is the opposite of late payment, to which the European Union's Late Payments Directive and the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 in the United Kingdom are directed. Prompt payment may also be contrasted with excessively long or grossly unfair payment terms, such as payment terms in excess of 60 days, even where such terms are honoured by the business making payment.
In the UK, businesses are encouraged to sign the Prompt Payment Code to testify to their commitment to adopting a prompt payment culture. As at 22 March 2015, 1824 businesses had signed the code. The UK Government issued a consultation document in February 2015 aimed at 'challenging grossly unfair payment terms' and 'strengthening the Prompt Payment Code, and the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill made further provision to 'improve prompt payment reporting'. The UK government also introduced proposals in the 2015 Enterprise Bill to penalise delayed payment of insurance claims.
In the United States, prompt payment of federal government supplier debts is enshrined in Title 31 of the United States Code, chapter 39 being known as the 'Prompt Payment Act'. The California Legislature has implemented a comprehensive series of laws known as the 'prompt payment statutes'.
- Enterprise Bill, clauses 20-21, http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2015-16/enterprise.html accessed 27 September 2015