In an effort to combat the affects of the crumbling economy, service-oriented businesses have been getting creative with new ways to generate money. Unfortunately for consumers, that creativity often translates into price hikes, additional fees, reduced services or cut backs on productivity. But does it have to be that way?
Take a look at the airline industry. When fuel prices soared last summer, airline giants started charging extra for what were once common courtesy services in addition to the original ticket price. They started with charging for snacks and drinks and then quickly moved onto charging checked bag fees, assigned seat fees, fuel surcharges, curbside check-in fees, etc. Once the industry giants established that this additional fee policy was going to be part of the standard flight-booking procedures, it didn't take long for all of the airlines to jump on the "Hidden Fee Bandwagon." From a customer's perspective, it seemed as though the airline industry as a whole started seeing dollar signs instead of thinking about its customers needs. Then along came Southwest Airlines with its clear thinking and its "No Fee Policy."
In some ways, the accounts receivable factoring industry can appear to be a lot like the airlines industry. Both operate world-wide, both industries should be service-oriented, and both industries are notorious for tacking on extra fees in addition to the basic fee. Much like Southwest Airlines, the factoring industry has a handful of healthcare factoring companies who do not charge extra fees in addition to the base fee. This article will discuss three areas where factoring firms might insert hidden fees.
First and foremost, a business owner needs to understand the basics of how a factor charges for its factoring services. It's important to note that healthcare factoring firms do not loan money; rather, they purchase a company's invoices at a discounted rate. This discount rate can be a one-time flat fee, or it can vary depending on how long the factor owns the invoice. In general, discount rates can be affected by a number of things, including the contractual commitment, the average monthly purchase volumes, the average size of the invoices sold, the number of account debtors (customers) that will be factored and the credit quality of those debtors. Variations in each of these will lead to potentially substantial changes in the fee structure. In many cases, factoring firms will have extra fees in addition to their factoring discount fee. More often than not, these "hidden fees" are disguised as set-up fees, administrative fees and penalty fees.
There are some factoring companies that start charging fees as soon as a potential client applies for healthcare factoring services. Set-up fees range from a minimal application fee of $25 to a hefty origination fee of $500. In some cases, factors will add in individual fees for due diligence procedures (i.e. running credit and background checks) and legal documentation fees (i.e. assembling legal documents and filing liens). When all is said and done, a new factoring prospect could be $1,000 out of pocket before knowing if he/she has been approved for funding.
When business owners are comparing and contrasting factoring companies, it's important to inquire whether the factor charges specific set-up fees. Sometimes, the factor will say yes, and sometimes it will say no. It's up to the business owner to decide whether or not the factoring services outweigh the start-up costs before moving forward.
In addition to application, origination and due diligence fees, some factoring firms charge their clients for the time it takes to compile and ship legal documents, billing for postage, long-distance phone calls, photocopying documents and/or time spent on the computer while assisting their clients. There are also fees associated with funding procedures. Most factors will institute set prices for a same-day wire or an overnight transfer of funds.
When a business owner is contemplating the notion of factoring his/her receivables, it's important to factor any administrative costs into the equation. Without doing so, a business owner could wind up paying a lot more than he/she had initially anticipated.
The last way a factoring firm could potentially squeeze in some additional "hidden fees" is when it assigns fees for various "penalties." Under this umbrella of penalty fees, a factoring firm could designate fees for misdirected payments, early termination of a contract, aged invoices, expedited funding (within 24 hours or less), not hitting a monthly minimum factoring requirement or going over the maximum allowable factoring amount. In addition, a healthcare factoring firm could also penalize its client by holding onto the funds within the reserve account (cash that is owed back to the client once payments have been received).
When choosing an accounts receivable factoring company, business owners should take the time to read all of the terms and conditions before signing on the dotted line. Entrepreneurs should not be afraid to dig deep into the factoring contract and ask a question when something is unclear. Otherwise, those hidden fees hidden fees will reveal themselves at a point where it's too late to re-negotiate the terms.
So in conclusion, it does appear that the factoring industry is similar to the airlines industry in that players in both are notorious for charging "extra fees." The plus side to this realization, however, is that both industries also have some players who stand firm in their "No Extra Fee Policy." The bottom line-much like when shopping for the best airline deal, it's extremely important to look at the all-inclusive price, including possibly extra fees, before agreeing to do business with an accounts receivable factoring company.