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By sending documents through
the banking system in a documentary bills collections, both an exporter and an
overseas buyer have some degree of security in completing the commercial
contract. But a more secure method of carrying out the transaction is by a documentary
letter of credit. This documentary letter of credit when transmitted through a
bank, usually in the exporter's country, becomes the means by which the
exporter obtains payment.
The necessary documents,
correctly completed, are presented to a bank by the expiry date of the credit.
If the terms of the credit are met an exporter can receive payment from a UK
bank. The buyer is in effect providing the exporter with immediate payment in
return for a guaranteed assurance from a reputable bank that the export
documents required to deliver the goods have been completed to the bank's
Documentary credits may be
revocable or irrevocable. A revocable letter of credit is rather rare nowadays
because it means that the terms of the credit can be cancelled or amended by an
overseas buyer at any time without prior notice to the exporter. Most letters
of credit are irrevocable, which means that once a buyer's conditions in the
letter have been agreed by an exporter, they constitute a definite undertaking
by the buyer's bank and cannot be revoked without the exporter's agreement.
UK banks advise
letters of credit, i.e. on presentation of documents required in a letter of
credit, they send them for collection and payment by the issuing bank of an
overseas buyer. The letter of credit in this situation is only as good as the
strength of the overseas bank involved. An exporter's advising bank undertakes
no responsibility itself to pay the exporter. Even better
security is achieved if the irrevocable letter is confirmed by an advising bank
in the UK.
Then the UK
coil-firming bank stands fully in place of the issuing bank abroad, and
provided all the terms and conditions of credit are fulfilled by an exporter,
payment is assured by the banking system without recourse, i.e. without further
call on the exporter. So when an exporter has negotiated in the contract with
the buyer for a confirmed irrevocable letter of credit then security of
payment, as far as humanly possible, is achieved.
But whether or not the
credit is confirmed it is essential that the exporter checks the credit terms
immediately to make sure they are compatible with the commercial contract made with
the buyer. In dealing with documentary credits the bank is concerned only with
the documents to be presented and not with the goods or services involved.
Documentary credits may
provide for payment at sight or for acceptance of a term bill of exchange by
either the issuing bank in a buyer's country or the correspondent bank in the UK.