Documentary collections are a great way to get paid for your invoices quickly. Unlike other methods of collecting payments, documentary collections can be completed in as little as a few days. In this article, we will discuss the basics of documentary collections and provide you with everything you need to know in order to start using them in your business. We’ll cover topics such as what documentary collections are, how they work, and the benefits they offer businesses.
What is a collection?
URC 522 defines a ”collection” as the handling by banks of documents to
-obtain payment and /or acceptance
-deliver documents against payment and/or acceptance
-deliver documents on other terms and conditions
Uniform Rules for Collection (URC 522)
Collections are governed by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Uniform Rules for Collections (URC522), which were last updated in 2007. The URC is used by banks around the world when handling collections and provides a consistent framework for all parties involved.
What is a Documentary Collection?
A documentary collection is a type of trade finance transaction in which the exporter (seller) entrusts the documents required for the export of goods to their bank. The importer’s (buyer’s) bank then collects payment from the importer on behalf of the exporter.
Documentary collections are often used in international trade because they provide a degree of security for both buyers and sellers. For buyers, documentary collections offer the benefit of not having to pay for goods until they have received and inspected them. This means that buyers can avoid the risk of paying for goods that have not been shipped.
For sellers, documentary collections offer the benefit of being paid as soon the documents are presented for sight collections. Or payment at maturity for acceptance bills for collections. Collections also offer sellers the legal instrument to sue the buyer in case of default.
Documentary collections can be used for both physical goods and services, but they are most commonly used for the trade of physical goods.
How do documentary collections work?
The buyer and seller agree on commercial terms. They agree to use “Collection ” as a payment method subject to URC 522.
Seller also referred to as drawer, ships the goods and obtains documents stated in the commercial agreement. The seller instructs his bank to send the documents to the buyer’s bank with instructions to handle them as per the commercial terms agreement.
The buyer’s bank will release documents to the buyer against payment or acceptance, depending on the agreed terms. If the collection is on acceptance, then the importer then has a set period of time to pay the amount due on the invoice.
Once payment is received, the buyer’s bank will transfer the funds back to sellers banks.
What are negotiable instruments?
The backbone of documentary collections is Bills of exchange, which are negotiable instruments. This is because they offer some security to the seller in event of default.
Negotiable instruments are financial documents that can be used to make payments. Legally, a negotiable instrument is described as a written unconditional order by one party (the drawer) to another (the drawee) to pay a specified amount of money to a third party (the payee) at sight or a future determinable time.
Negotiability means that the instrument can be transferred from one party to another. The most common types of negotiable instruments are checks and bills of exchange (draft). Bill of exchange is proof of debt and can be used as evidence in a court of law.
Bills of exchange are the commonly used instruments in documentary collections. Sight collections will be accompanied by sight bills of exchange / demand bills of exchange. Tenure bills are used where differed payment is agreed. Others include promissory notes and checks.
Drafts, as they are also referred to, are discharged one full payment is received.
What is the importance of bills of exchange in documentary collections?
Once a bill of exchange is signed it represents a legally binding contract between the drawer and drawee. This means that the drawee is obligated to pay the specified amount of money to the payee at the agreed-upon time. If the drawee fails to do so, they are considered in default and can be sued by the payee.
Many commonwealth countries have a Bills of Exchange Act or Negotiable Instruments Act that legislates the use of bills of exchange. In the United States, there is no such Act, but the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) contains provisions on negotiable instruments that are similar to those in the Bills of Exchange Act.
The importance of bills of exchange (BE) in documentary collections is that they allow the exporter to release goods to the importer before payment is done. That way, BE remains as their security in case of default.
What are the types of documentary collections?
There are two types of documentary collections: documents against payment (D/P) and documents against acceptance (D/A).
Documents against payment
In a D/P collection, the collecting bank releases the documents to the importer only after it has received payment from them. The importer then has a set period of time to make payment. If payment is not received within this time frame, the bank will return the documents to the exporter.
Documents against acceptance
In a D/A collection, the collecting bank releases the documents to the importer as soon as they receive them. The importer then has a set period of time to accept or reject the shipment. If the importer does not take action within this time frame, the bill of exchange will be automatically accepted and payment will be due at a future date that is specified in the contract.
Who are parties to documentary collections ?
The main parties in a documentary collection are the exporter, importer, collecting bank, and remitting bank.
The exporter is the party who is selling the goods and initiating the collection. Or as described in URC 522 , the party entrusting the handling of a collection to a bank.
The remitting bank is the bank that is handling the collection on behalf of the importer. They are responsible for presenting the documents to collecting bank using a presentation schedule.
Presentation schedule includes the following details
- enclosed documents
- instructions on how to release the documents to the drawee
- how handle accepted drafts / bills of exchange
- what to do if documents are rejected by drawee
- what to do incase of nonpayment of accepted drafts( whether to protest or not)
- instructions of how to transfer funds to remiting once payment is received from the drawer.
- any other instructions relevant to the transactions.
The collecting bank is the bank that is handling the collection on behalf of the exporter. They will be in charge of sending the documents to the importer and collecting payment from them. Collecting bank is responsible for handling as per instructions received from Remitting bank .
The importer is the party who is buying the goods and is responsible for making payment. In a documentary collection, they are also known as the drawee.
What is the documentary collection process?
The process starts when the exporter and importer agree to use a documentary collection as a means of payment. The exporter will ship the goods and obtain transport documents from the shipping company or airline if goods are air freighted. He will then go ahead and prepare commercial documents.
The exporter will then send the commercial invoice and other required documents to the collecting bank through his bank(remitting bank). The collecting bank will review the documents and act as their instructions.
The importer will have a set period of time to make payment. If they do not make payment for documents against payment within this time frame, the collecting bank will notify the remitting bank. They will hold the documents until they receive instruction on how to dispose of the same. If payment is received, the collecting bank will release the documents to the importer so they can take possession of their goods.
If the document is on a DA basis, the collecting bank will present the bill of exchange to the importer(drawee) for acceptance. Upon receipt of acceptance by the drawee, the documents will be released. At maturity, the importer will make a payment, and proceeds transmitted to the exporter. However, this is not usually the case, and payment can delay, or there can be an outright default. Uniform Rules for Collection provides guidance on what to do in case of default.
Which documents are usually required in a documentary collection?
The documents required in a documentary collection vary depending on the type of transaction and the countries involved. However, there are some documents that are commonly required.
– Bill of lading: A bill of lading is a document that lists the goods being shipped and serves as a receipt for the shipper.
– Commercial invoice: A commercial invoice is a document that lists the products being shipped, their value, and other important details about the transaction.
– Bill of exchange: A bill of exchange is a negotiable instrument that can be used to make payments.
– Insurance policy: An insurance policy protects the goods being shipped in case of damage or loss.
-Photosynatary certificate: A phytosanitary certificate is a document that certifies that the goods being shipped are of plant origin.
-Packing List: A packing list is a document that lists the goods being shipped and their packaging.
-Airwaybill: An airwaybill is a document that lists the goods being shipped and their packaging.
– Certificate of Origin: A certificate of origin is a document that certifies that the goods being shipped are of a certain country of origin.
Clean collection vs documentary collections
There are basically two types of documents in a collection as described by the Uniform Rule for Collections. Financial documents and commercial documents.
These are documents that relate to the payment aspect of the transaction. They include documents such as bills of exchange, checks, promissory notes or similar instruments.
Commercial documents, on the other hand, are documents that relate to the goods being shipped. They include documents such as transport documents, documents of title, commercial invoices, and any other documents not being financial documents.
These are collections that involve only financial documents. This means that commercial documents are sent out of the banking system. Effectively, the importer can access the goods before accepting financial documents.
Companies that go for clean collections have developed have developed enough history with each other to have that comfort. The other category is companies dealing with their branches or subsidiaries.
These are collections that involve both financial and commercial documents.
The most common type of documentary collection is the Document against Payment (D/P) collection. In this type of collection, payment is made only when the required documents are presented to the drawee. The second type of documentary collection is the Document against Acceptance (D/A) collection. In this type of collection, the documents are released to the importer only after they have accepted the bill of exchange.
When to use documentary collections?
Before choosing documentary collections, you need to analyze the other alternatives.
Letters of credit (LC)
LCs are financial instruments where the issuing bank acts on behalf of the applicants, undertaking to pay the beneficiary on the production of documents confirming compliance with the terms and conditions. In other words, they offer a payment guarantee to the buyer while offering a performance obligation to the seller. They are generally expensive and documents heavy.
When the seller (exporter)sends the goods to the buyer(importer) requiring payment to be made when goods have arrived, this is called an Open account. Terms of payment can be 30, 60, or 90 days after the named event (date of bill of lading or date of sight). This clearly favors the buyer, as the beneficiary takes the risk of non-payment.
This is when the importer has sent funds to the exporter before goods are shipped. The importer takes a risk, the exporter’s risk of none-performance. They also need a lot of capital to continue carrying our business in this manner.
Back to the question above:
You can use collections when the other options don’t fit your operations and risk appetite. Sometimes the use of or prohibition is dictated by the seller.
Many companies using collections started using letters of credit.
What happens if you want to de-risk documentary collections?
What happens if you want to derisk documentary collections?
Bill avalisation is one way to do this. Avalisation is when the bank guarantees payment of a draft to the seller, in case the buyer does not make the payment.
It is simply the bank guaranteeing payment of a draft to the seller, in case the buyer does not make the payment.
How bill avalisations works
The remitting bank will instruct the collecting bank to avalise the bill of exchange (draft) in addition to other conditions on presentation schedule.
In early days , authorised bank official would sign the draft in addition to the signature of the drawee. In case of default the drawer will have recouse on the either or both signors of the drafts. Today banks just send as SWIFT message(MT 499)to communicate avalization. The effect of both methods are same , the bank commits to make payment in event of default by drawee.
Documentary Credits (DC) vs Documentary Collections
#1.Documentary Credit is also known as a Letter of Credit. A Documentary Collection is also known as Bills for Collection. Both are international payments methods used in international trade.
#2.Documentary Credit is a guarantee of payment from a bank on behalf of the buyer. It also guarantees the buer that the seller will perform before payment is released .In Documentary Collection the banks act more as an intermediary between the two parties rather than guaranteeing payment.
#3.The Documentary Credit is a more secure method of payment for the seller as they are guaranteed payment by the issuer. The Documentary Collection is less secure for the seller as they are not guaranteed payment, although in practice, most Documentary Collections are paid.
#4.Documentary Credits are more expensive than Documentary Collectionst.
It is important to note that both Documentary Credits and Documentary Collections can be used for either Documents Against Payment (D/P) or Documents Against Acceptance (D/A).
What happens bills for collections are not paid?
This depends on whether documents have been released to the buyer on a D/P basis or a D/A basis.
Unaccepted sight bills for collection
If the documents have not been released to the buyer, it means that goods are somewhere in the international supply chain. The goods could be on the high seas or they could have reached their destination and started incurring demurrages. The seller’s first priority is to secure the goods. This can be achieved by re-routing the shipment to another buyer or appointing an agent to help them sell off the goods.
Through Remitting bank, the seller will work with the Collecting bank to ensure physical goods are secured to minimize any losses.
Unpaid bills D/A bills for collection
At maturity, the expectation is that seller will be receiving payment because the buyer took the goods and has either sold or used them for manufacturing. What happens when payment is not received?
The drawer will need to institute legal action to recover the funds from the drawee in his(drawee’s) country. It is a legal requirement to protest for nonpayment of a Bill of Exchange through a Public notary. This is to protect the drawer’s(seller’s) legal right to sue for payment in case of non-payment by the drawee.
If no payment is received then legal action will be instituted by hiring a lawyer. The strongest evidence, in this case, will be accepted bills of exchange. Bills of Exchange Act in most Commonwealth Countries recognizes accepted bills as proof of debt and trade. We shall discuss bills of exchange separately.
Now let’s finish by going through this snapshot of Uniform Rules for Collection(URC 522)
Snapshot of Uniform Rules for Collection(URC 522)
#Article 1: Application of URC522
URC 522 applies to all collections
#Article 2: Definition of collections
Meaning of collections and documents
#Article 3: Parties to a collection
Principal , Drawee, Remitting bank & Collecting bank
#Article 4:Collection instructions
Collection instruction must indicate ”Collection” is subject to URC522. It details banks will and will not do and also all information that collection instructions should have.
#Article 5: Presentation
The procedure of presentation of documents, the form in which documents are presented, directions to remitting bank on how to give effect to instructions of the principal.
#Article 6: Sight/Acceptance
Presentation of for payment or acceptance without delay.
#Article 7:Release commercial documents
Detailed procedure on how to release documents.
#Article 8: Creation of Documents
How Remitting the bank’s instructions on the creation of documents to the collecting bank or the drawer should be handled and resultant responsibilities.
#Article 9:Good faith and reasonable care
Bank will act in good faith and exercise reasonable care in handling collections.
#Article 10: Documents vs Goods, Services, Performance
Goods should be dispatched directly to bank without their authority. Banks need not take any actions on goods
#Artcle 11: Disclaimer for acts of an instructed party
Banks utilizing services of other banks do so at the risk of the Principal.
#Artcle 12: Disclaimer on documents received
Banks are limited to determine that documents received appear as listed in the collection instruction.
#Artcle 13: Disclaimer on the effectiveness of documents
Banks don’t take responsibility for the genuineness, accuracy, and effectiveness of documents.
#Artcle 14: Disclaimer on delays, loss in transit, and translation.
Banks do not take liability for risk of documents on transit.
#Artcle 15: Force majeure
Banks don’t risks in acts of God, riots and other causes beyond their control
#Artcle 16: Payment without delay
The collecting /presenting bank must transfer funds to the Remitting bank without delay upon receipt of the same from the drawee.
#Artcle 17: Payment in local currency
Where applicable local currency received from drawee must be released to remitting bank without delay.
#Artcle 18: Payment in foreign currency
Where applicable foreign currency received from drawee must be released to remitting bank without delay.
#Artcle 19: Partial payments
Clean collection: partial payment acceptable within the laws of drawee country
Documentary collection: only accepted if specified in the collection instructions from the remitting bank
Instruction to collect interest must be accompanied by details of applicable interest rates. Such instructions to collect interest may be ignored unless there is specific instructions not to waive the requirement.
#Artcle 21:Charges and expenses
When a collection instruction asks for charges to be collected from the drawer who subsequently refuses, the bank can still release the documents without collecting the charges. Eventually, all charges may be recovered from the principal.
Presenting bank is responsible to ensure that acceptance of a bill of exchange appears to be complete and correct.
#Artcle 23:Promisory notes and other instruments
Presenting bank is not responsible genuineness of any signature and the authority of any signatory to sign the promissory note.
#Artcle 24: Protest
The collection schedule must provide instruction regarding protest.
#Artcle 25 : Case-of-need
If the principal point appoints case-of-need in the event of non-payment or non-acceptance, he must indicate the powers of such case-of-need
#Artcle 26: Advice
Collecting bank must advice fate or documents and payment through the various events of the collection cycle.
Thank you reading. Hopefully you will be using documentary collection in the near future. Please leave a comment and make sure to subscribe.