We sincerely apologise – or do we?
Have you ever apologised to a customer who owes you money for perceived poor service or for a genuine mistake? Or do you try and avoid doing so in case this is taken to be an acknowledgement of guilt or liability? New legislation in Scotland, the Apologies (Scotland) Act 2016 seeks to differentiate between an apology and an acceptance of any legal liability. According to this piece of legislation you or a member of your staff can offer an apology without fear of this being used against you in court. The Act states:
In any legal proceedings … an apology made (outside the proceedings) in connection with any matter –
(a) is not admissible as evidence of anything relevant to the determination of liability in connection with that matter, and
(b) cannot be used in any other way to the prejudice of the person by or on behalf of whom the apology was made.
The Act’s definition of an apology is a statement that ‘the person is sorry about, or regrets, an act, omission or outcome and includes any part of the statement which contains an undertaking to look at the circumstances giving rise to the act, omission or outcome with a view to preventing a recurrence‘. However a word of caution; if the ‘apology’ is then followed by a statement of fact admitting fault, for example, by saying the goods or services did not conform to the contract, this could be used as evidence in a court case. Currently this act only applies to Scotland but it will be interesting to see if such an Act will follow for the rest of the UK.
So what are the implications for collecting your debts? Maybe you sent out your invoice late, then you can apologise, but your apology does not mean that the debt is no longer payable.