Documentary Credit (also known as letter of credit or bankers commercial credit, or letter of undertaking) is one of the payment instruments that institutions providing non-cash payment services (banks, foreign bank branches, etc.) deal with to make a valid payment transaction at the request of the account holder. Documentary credit is the most commonly used for payment of international sales of goods.
The supply of international payment services by institutions providing non-cash payment services shall be conducted in accordance with regulations of the law on foreign exchange management, treaties to which Vietnam is a member and commercial practices (including international commercial practices provided by the International Chamber of Commerce; and other commercial practices which are not contrary to the Vietnamese laws) which agreed upon by the parties.
According to UCP 600, credit means any arrangement, however named or described, that is irrevocable and thereby constitutes a definite undertaking of the issuing bank to honour a complying presentation. Documentary credit is an independent and separate transaction from the sales and other contracts on which it may be based. The Issuing Banks and Advising Banks are in no way concerned with or bound by contract between the Applicant (purchaser) and the Beneficiary (seller), even if any reference whatsoever to it is included in the credit. Banks deal with documents only. Goods, services or performance to which the documents may relate are not under scope of handling of the Banks. When the issuing bank determines that a presentation of documents is complying, payment shall be made.
The independence between the documentary credit and the sales contract ensures that the seller definitely receives payment if complying presentation, however, does not protect the interests of the purchaser when there is any dispute about the quality of the delivered goods or any other dispute after delivery. When the seller presents complying documents, the issuing bank is obliged to make payment without any doubt whether the goods have actually been delivered according to the specifications as specified in the contract. At the same time, the cancellation or termination of contract does not affect the effectiveness of documentary credit, payment still is made if presentation is complying.
International payment instruments play an important role in commercial transactions between parties residing in different countries. Each payment method reflects the way of receiving and paying for goods amount between the buyer and the seller. The parties participating in international commerce transaction need to understand the characteristics of each payment instrument to protect their rights and obligations, and avoid disputes in international sales of goods, or disputes in financial service using letter of credit or other forms, disputes in performance of contract and should involve lawyers in early stage if possible to avoid mishap.