In my career, I have often seen the phrase “Payable within 14 days” on invoices. It’s almost as if this phrase takes on a life of its own, creeping onto every bill it can find. But what happens if the original contract terms or the General Terms and Conditions (GTC) specify a different deadline? Can this deadline simply be changed? The short answer is no. And the long answer? Well, buckle up, we’re going on a legal roller coaster ride!
The unexpected journey of payment deadlines: contracts, GTCs and the intrepid law
Contracts and T&Cs are like the strict parents of the business world. They set the rules and expect them to be followed. And when they say that a payment must be made within 30 days, they mean it. No “But the invoice said…” will help. – Contracts and terms and conditions are inexorable.
The phrase “payable within 14 days” on an invoice is like the rebellious teenager who thinks he can change the rules. But the law here is the older, wiser brother saying, “Not so fast, buddy!” Pursuant to sec. 271 para. 1 of the German Civil Code (BGB), performance is due immediately unless a different deadline has been agreed. And who are we to rebel against the law? Even my lawyer software seems to be infected by the “payable within 14 days” epidemic 😉
Now, you may be asking yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Apart from a bad impression in professional business dealings, perhaps a warning by a competitor would be conceivable. Even if such a one has not yet crossed my path. However, there could be at least one problem – with serious consequences – if you actually believe that the imprint on the invoice could cause a change in the due date and you then prematurely demand reminder fees or even take legal action.
But overall, the law is the older, wiser brother who always has the last word. So, play by the rules, avoid warning letters and leave a good impression in professional business dealings. And the next time you see an invoice with “Payable within 14 days”, you can smile and take another look at your contract or the GTC.