Debt collection in Belgium
Does your company have to deal with a debt collection case in Belgium because a Belgian customer has not paid your invoice? Our Belgian debt collection specialists and lawyers will be happy to help you. We ensure that your outstanding invoices are paid quickly. Read here what we can do for you when you want to engage with a collection agency and recover debt from Belgium.
International debt collection in Belgium
When you do business with a Belgian trading partner, you are confronted with different business practice and customs, as well as different rules and regulations than those you are used to. In addition, you also must deal with different languages. That makes debt recovery in Belgium often complicated and time-consuming for you. That is why you should call in our Belgian specialists. They have the means to get your debtor to pay.
Payment behaviour of Belgian companies
- The legal payment period for invoices is 30 days
- The payment behavior of Belgian companies has improved considerably
- A payment term of 7 days is customary when sending a reminder
Debt collection in Belgium
The payment behavior in Belgium is well organised. Credit management within many Belgian companies has improved considerably in recent years. However, many invoices are still paid too late. Therefore, it is important to have a good credit management system for your Belgian customers. The debt recovery process as well as the legislation in Belgium can greatly differ from what you are used to. Legal procedures can take a very long time, but the costs are relatively low.
Advantages of debt collection in Belgium
- Belgian collection lawyers in your country
- Belgian-speaking lawyers
- Highest success rates
- Collection throughout Belgium
- Always a single point of contact
- 24/7 online access to our portal
- No Cure No Pay debt collection
Belgian lawyer in your country
The best way to collect your invoice in Belgium is by contacting one of our Belgian lawyers or collection specialists. By doing so, you will not have to worry about anything, or even travel to Belgium. Our debt collection specialists will take care of everything. They have extensive knowledge and experience with the laws and regulations in Belgium and speak Dutch and French fluently. Therefore, they will be able to make your Belgian debtor pay quickly.
Debt collection procedure in Belgium
The collection process in Belgium can be divided into two phases. In the extrajudicial phase we collect without the intervention of the court, in the judicial phase we do involve the court to get your Belgian customer to pay. Because we are a law firm, we can assist you in both phases.
Our starting point is to always start the collection procedure in the extrajudicial phase. In this phase we try to avoid the intervention of the court. We contact your Belgian debtor to ensure that your debtor still pays. In the extrajudicial phase we have the following possibilities in Belgium:
Written demand letters and phone calls
We send the debtor a written demand letter and contact them by telephone. We request that they pay your claim within a few days, together with interest and costs.
Draft a payment arrangement
If necessary, we will agree to a payment arrangement with your debtor.
Announcing legal proceedings
The best way to pressurise your Belgian debtor is to announce that you are going to start legal proceedings. Usually this announcement will convince your client to pay. Therefore, it is advisable to call in a debt collection lawyer as soon as possible, who can announce such proceedings on your behalf. This will prevent the collection process from taking longer than necessary.
It may be possible to seize the debtor’s assets. Going to court is not always required for this. It is also possible to seize assets based on a notary deed for an undisputed invoice owed by a third party. Certain conditions do need to be met. For instance, if your debtor is not notified of this seizure in advance, they can appeal.
Our lawyers can investigate your debtor’s solvency. In such cases, solvency is inquired with the CBB (Central register of seizure, delegation, assignment, collective debt settlement and protest). Conducting a solvency research is always recommended before proceeding to a prejudgment seizure.
Visit the debtor
As an intermediate step for legal proceedings, we also offer the option of organising a site visit. The bailiff will visit your customer to assess the situation and inventory, but also deliver the payment reminder. This provides us with up-to-date information on the financial position of the debtor. Based on this investigation, we can provide specific advice regarding any further action that must taken.
If your debtor refuses to pay in the extrajudicial phase, we can go to court in consultation with you. We perform a credit check and analyse your debtor's financial situation. This enables us to determine whether legal proceedings are worthwhile. In addition, we will always let you know in advance what the possible costs are and we will only start working after receiving your permission.
Would you like to start legal collection proceedings against your Belgian debtor? If so, the first question is in which country should you take legal action: in your country or in Belgium? This depends on the competent court, i.e. the court that is competent to rule on your debt collection case.
In your general terms and conditions, you can make agreements about the competent court in the event of a (payment) conflict. This is also called choice of forum. Have no agreements been made? Then the main rule is that the court in the country of the defendant has jurisdiction. In this case the Belgian court. You then must go to Belgium to follow legal proceedings there.
Furthermore, the main rule is that the law of the country of the seller or service provider applies. In this case, the law in your country is applicable. We then get this difficult situation where the Belgian court must judge the case based on the law in your country. A legal system he is unfamilair with. This is not a desirable situation, which is why our advice is to make agreements about this in your general terms and conditions. In addition, you can also agree that you can litigate in your own country, should a conflict arise. For more information about your specific situation, ask our lawyers for advice.
Debt collection laws in Belgium
When taking legal action against a debtor located in Belgium, there are several Belgian collection laws that we can rely on. The best collection procedure to use will differ depending on the situation. Of course, our lawyers will always look for the best option for you and your collection case.
Ordinary civil proceedings (“Bodemprocedure”)
Ordinary civil proceedings are a popular means to collect your claim, whether it is disputed or not. If the case cannot be settled during a preliminary hearing, the court will set up a schedule for submitting statements. The parties will then respond to one another’s point of view. In general, there are 3 time periods within which you and the defendant must respond. Two of them are for the debtor and one is for the claimant, who in this case is you. In some cases, there can also be 5 time periods (3 for the debtor and 2 for the claimant). Each party is given at least one month to respond. After the periods have expired, a date for the hearing is determined. This is the day where the case is pleaded.
International collection laws
In addition to Belgian collection laws, there are also a few European measures that can be used if your Belgian customer refuses to pay. It is important for the European Union that trade between European countries is stimulated. Therefore, complicated procedures are unwanted. That is why, in addition to the normal procedures, there are two alternative procedures that can be used for foreign claims between wo EU countries: the European Payment Order Procedure and the Small Claims Procedure.
Both procedures are relatively quick and inexpensive. A standard form must be completed and sent to the competent court. If you and your trading partner have not previously agreed on the competent court in the event of a conflict, then it is usual for the judge in the defendant's country who has jurisdiction. In this case, the Belgian court. The court then deals with the collection case and makes a judgment.
The Small Claims Procedure is only suitable for small claims up to € 5,000. The advantage is that it can also be used for disputed claims. The European Payment Order only applies to undisputed claims. However, it is less popular in Belgium, where the accelerated procedure works very well. You must bear in mind that if the claim is disputed by the debtor, the proceedings will then be terminated. In that case, you can no longer proceed with the ordinary civil procedure.
Litigation in your own country
Have you agreed in the general terms and conditions that the court in your country is competent? Then legal proceedings can be started in your country. Depending on your specific situation, our lawyers will look at what is most beneficial for your company. If we are going to litigate in your country against your Belgian debtor, we can start ordinary civil proceedings. Both parties will be heard, after which the court will make a judgement.
It is important to weigh up the costs and benefits. Litigation can be more expensive in your country because of the court fees. They can in fact be much higher in your country than in Belgium, where the court fees always amount to €165, regardless of the amount being claimed. On the other hand, conducting proceedings in your country is not something that a Belgian debtor is expecting. This means that cases are often resolved in the extrajudicial phase when the proceedings are conducted in your own country.
When a judgment in your country has been obtained, it must still be executed in Belgium. Within the EU, it is established that all judgments passed in a member state are also recognised in other EU countries. For the execution of a judgment in Belgium, your court issues a certificate. This is then sent to the bailiff in Belgium together with the judgment. The bailiff then ensures that the judgment is executed in Belgium.
Once the limitation period has been exceeded, an outstanding invoice expires. It is no longer possible to enforce its payment through the court. It is therefore important to keep a close eye on this limitation period. For business claims in Belgium, the general limitation period is 10 years. This period starts as soon as the claim becomes due. This corresponds to the due date of the invoice. If the payment period of an invoice is 30 days, the limitation period of 10 years starts after those 30 days have passed.
Imagine: you have delivered an order to a customer. On April 1, 2017 you send the corresponding invoice, with a payment term of 30 days. Your customer did not pay. The due date of the invoice was May 1, 2017. The 10-year limitation period starts from this moment. Your invoice will therefore expire on May 1, 2027.
Preventing your invoice from expiring in Belgium
It is possible to prevent your invoice from expiring by interrupting the limitation period. The interruption stops and resets the limitation period. In Belgium, there are 3 ways to stop a prescription period:
- A recognition of debt, such as a letter from the debtor confirming that there is an outstanding invoice
- A subpoena
- A notice of default with acknowledgment of receipt, sent by your lawyer. In addition, this notice of default must meet specific requirements
As you can guess, it is most advantageous to send the letter of suspension at the end of the limitation period. But of course, make sure that you do this on time, before the limitation period expires. Otherwise, you risk invoice becoming expired and you will no longer be able to collect your claim legally.
Exceptions to the limitation period
For some claims, a different limitation period applies. According to the EU policy, a limitation period of 1 year applies to matters relating to transport law. A limitation period of 1 year also applies to Belgian lease contracts. In matters relating to non-contractual damage, the invoice expires after 5 years.
Legal areas for debt collection in Belgium
Our Belgian debt collection agency has been active for several years. During this time, we have helped many companies all over the world with their debt collection business in Belgium as well as several Belgian companies, with all kinds of debt collection cases in various jurisdictions:
- Buying and Selling
- Construction law
- Rental and leasing
- Agency and distribution agreement
- Damages and unlawful acts
“Bierens is a highly effective and professional partner. Not only do they have a good debt collection procedure, they also give solid advice.”
Manuel Maas, Eneco
Is your debtor located in Antwerp, Leuven or Gent? The location of your debtor does not matter. Our specialists can assist you throughout Belgium. It is no longer necessary for you to seek the help of a debt collection agency or a lawyer based in Belgium in order to successfully collect your case. You can simply transfer your case online, and our Belgian specialists will immediately start working on it. Thanks to our own office in Antwerp, we can effectively collect your claims in Belgium.
More than a debt collection agency
If you are currently looking for a collection agency, know that you would be better off with a collection lawyer. Our Belgian debt collection lawyers have more resources than a debt collection agency. Moreover, they work faster and are also more successful. The speed and efficiency of our services can only be beneficial for your organization, as they will allow you to quickly get your money.
No Win No Fee debt collection
During the extrajudicial phase, we work based on the No Win, No Fee principle. If we do not collect, then you pay no legal fee. You only pay €150 for administrative costs. After all, an unpaid invoice causes enough frustration. We think it would be unfair if you were to be faced with all sorts of additional fees.
You only pay a fee if we can collect the claim. We try to recover this fee from the debtor as much as possible. Therefore, a successful collection case will cost you almost nothing! That is what we call justice, as you will receive what you are entitled to.
If the collection is successful, we try to recover the collection costs from the debtor as much as possible. In that case, your Belgian customer will pay the outstanding invoice and the collection costs. This way, you will pay little to no collection fees to our organisation.
Do you have an outstanding invoice with a Belgian customer? Or do you have another conflict with your client? Our collection specialists and lawyers will be happy to help you solve your payment conflict. Please feel free to contact us for more information. Do you no longer want to wait for your payment? Then hand over your invoice immediately. Our specialists will then get straight to work for you.