Undifferentiated invoices — watch out!

Imagine you agree payment for goods or services on a particular basis and get an unitemised invoice. Knowing that time is money, you pay it because you’re too busy to ask questions. (Think charterers paying final hire to owners, or owners paying for bunkers or stores). Can you get the excess back if it turns out you were innocently overcharged? Quite likely not, according to the Court of Appeal yesterday in the building case of Leslie v Farrar Construction Ltd [2016] EWCA Civ 1041. A property developer gave a builder a maximum budget and agreed to pay on the basis of costs incurred. The builder simply invoiced for the budgeted sum, considerably more as it turned out than the relevant costs. The developer paid with a smile. He failed in his claim to claw back the excess when, some little time later, he went through the figures and discovered the truth. Even if there was a payment by mistake, he was regarded as having agreed to pay in any event. Moral (it seems): always insist on and read through itemised bills before releasing your hard-earned cash.

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