Small hospitality firms are not the only ones reluctant to take advantage of the Government's proposed statutory right to charge interest on overdue debts.

Of 1,400 companies questioned in the Office World Quarterly Small Business Survey only 37% felt they would enforce this right, while 38% said they would not.

"Small firms may fear that implementing it will upset customers and they will lose business," said Office World managing director Simon Fox. "Others may see the cost in time and administration exceeding the value of any interest charged. Another method may need to be found."

Meanwhile, European Commissioner Christos Papoutsis has raised the possibility of a European directive to achieve the same ends, and is inviting comments for a debate planned for October.

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