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Holland & Barrett criticised over poor payment practices

Holland & Barrett has been accused by the small business commissioner and senior MPs of treating its suppliers “shabbily” and being uncooperative during an investigation.

A report by the small business commissioner, Paul Uppal, said the company had “a purposeful culture of poor payment practices”, while also condemning the health food and supplements retailer for not cooperating with his investigation.

The investigation began after an IT company filed a complaint over an unpaid invoice of £15,000 for a search engine optimisation project. The invoice took 67 days to be paid, which was outside of the contractual agreement of 30 days. Holland & Barrett responded saying that the invoice was lost during its busy Christmas trading period and was “resolved very quickly” by paying in full 28 days after the complaint was submitted to the commissioner.

On further probing of Holland & Barrett’s payment procedures, the commissioner found that the retailer took an average of 68 days to pay invoices, while 60% of invoices were not paid within agreed terms.

“The Government is determined to end the scourge of late payments and bring about a cultural change to deliver responsible payment practices,” said Uppal. “Holland & Barrett’s refusal to co-operate with my investigation, as well as their published poor payment practices says to me that this is a company that doesn’t care about its suppliers or take prompt payment seriously.

“The request for anonymity by the business owner demonstrates small businesses remain in fear of challenging large businesses on their payment practices for fear of retribution. This should be a warning to suppliers that I will keep a spotlight on businesses that are not addressing late payment and use the powers available to me to highlight poor payment practice.”

“Holland & Barrett’s refusal to cooperate with my investigation, as well as their published poor payment practices, says to me that this is a company that doesn’t care about its suppliers or take prompt payment seriously,” said Uppal.

“The government is determined to end the scourge of late payments and bring about a cultural change to deliver responsible payment practices.”

Holland & Barrett commented: “Our agreed payment terms are a standard 90 days, although in fact our average payment time is around 60 days.

Rachel Reeves MP, chair of business, energy and industrial strategy committee, added: “Consumers would be appalled to hear that a big name on the high-street such as Holland & Barrett is treating their suppliers so shabbily. It is outrageous that a company takes on average 68 days to pay its invoices and pays 60 percent of them outside of agreed terms.”

Holland & Barrett has previously been brought to the attention of the Small Business Commissioner, after the company was named by the Parliamentary Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee into payment practice on 28 April 2018.