If you have just received an invoice from a business that you’ve engaged … and it’s much bigger than anticipated … how do you dispute an invoice?
At its core, when you don’t agree with an invoice, it is a contractual dispute.
When you ask a business to do something for you – like an electrician or a landscaper – you are actually entering into a contract with them. They are preforming work for you, which you agree to, for a price.
So if the price ends up more than agreed, how do you dispute an invoice?
Your first step is to review any written agreements you have with the business. There are often some terms and conditions attached to their quote, or an engagement agreement.
If the agreement has a dispute resolution clause, follow all its required steps to deal with the dispute. You may need to show that the business didn’t comply with everything they were supposed to do – like if the price was going to increase, they are often supposed to inform you and give you a varied quote.
If there was no formal written agreement, review any discussions or other correspondence that may combine to form your agreement with the customer. An agreement doesn’t all need to be in one document. It might be a series of emails and conversations.
You may offer to pay a certain amount that was agreed originally, and leave the rest to be resolved another way.
If you continue to refuse to pay the disputed invoice, the business may ‘sue’ you. This could be an application to a Civil Tribunal in a Small Claims List. Or it might be a Local or Magistrates Court application.
Either way, if the business sues you, you need to respond. Set out your case. The first step in any jurisdiction, before a decision is going to be made for you, is that you get another chance to sort it out between yourselves. The Tribunal or Court will require you to participate in a mediation.
The majority of issues resolve at mediation.
When you should get legal advice when disputing an invoice?
You could have a one-off appointment for some legal advice while you’re negotiating to try to resolve the dispute over the invoice. You don’t need to lawyer to negotiate for you – that gets too costly, and can sometimes make matter worse.
You may get legal advice or have lawyer represent you if the business sues you. Particularly if they have a lawyer for themselves. But you don’t need one. Get the advice. Make sure you have good grounds, and that you know your argument and your contract.
In time, the matter will resolve, usually by a compromised agreement. So be prepared to pay something. But don’t just pay the whole invoice without questioning it.