Debt collection in France
Does your company have to deal with a debt collection case in France because a French customer does not paid your invoice? Our French 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 France.
"The French economy mainly runs on SMEs. The chances of doing business with an SME are therefore high when doing business in France. Information about these companies is often less accessible, which makes collecting your money more difficult".
International debt collection in France
When you do business with a French trading partner, you are confronted with different business practices, different customs, as well as different rules and regulations than those you are used to. In addition, you must also deal with a different language. That makes debt recovery in France often complicated and time-consuming for you. That is why you should call in our French specialists. They have the means to get your debtor pay.
Payment behaviour of French companies
- The legal payment term for invoices is 30 days
- Approximately 60% do not pay within the payment term
- A payment term of 8 days is customary when sending a reminder
Debt collection in France
Like many southern European countries, France is one of the worse payers in Europe. More than half of French companies do not pay their invoices on time. The chance that you will end up with an outstanding invoice is therefore very high when doing business in France.
Collecting an outstanding invoice is also very difficult when your French debtor is an SME. Information about these companies is often less accessible. Especially when your debtor does not respond to your letters, e-mails or phone calls, it can be very difficult to get in touch with your debtor.
French companies are often very impressed by a lawyer. Contacting our lawyers can ensure that your debtor will pay. Therefore, do not wait too long with your outstanding invoice; the sooner you call us, the sooner you will have your payment.
Advantages of debt collection in France
- French collection lawyers in your country
- French-speaking lawyers
- Highest success rates
- Collection throughout France
- Always a single point of contact
- 24/7 online access to our portal
- No Cure No Pay debt collection
French lawyer in your country
The best way to collect your invoice in France is by contacting one of our French lawyers or collection specialists. You will not have to travel to France, you can simply contact our specialists at Bierens. They have extensive knowledge and experience with the laws and regulations in France and speak French fluently. Therefore, they will be able to make your French debtor pay quickly.
Debt collection procedure in France
The collection process in France 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 French customer to pay. Because we are a law firm, we can assist you in both phases.
Written demand letters and phone calls
We send the debtor a written demand letter and contact them by telephone, requesting that they pay your claim within a few days, together with interest and costs.
Effect a settlement
The French court requires that you try to settle the matter with your debtor, prior to starting legal proceedings. Therefore, in most cases we will try to effect a settlement with your customer prior to involving the court.
Involve a bailiff
A French bailiff will visit your debtor with a comprehensive demand letter, in which the debtor is requested to pay your invoice immediately. In addition, the bailiff will investigate why the debtor has remained in default towards your company as well as any other potential creditors.
It is possible to register a prejudgment charge on the debtor’s assets with permission of the court. This means that the debtor’s assets are frozen from the moment the prejudgment charge takes place. The debtor can no longer access his assets; these are “frozen” until the court makes a final decision. As it often takes a long time for the court to reach its decision, the prejudgment charge is a good way to guarantee that the debtor will not dispose their assets. If you place a prejudgment charge over a debtor’s assets, you are obliged as a creditor to start formal legal proceedings within 30 days. Otherwise, the prejudgment charge will expire.
Announcing legal proceedings
The French are often very impressed when contacted by a lawyer. Announcing legal proceedings is often sufficient to make the French debtor pay.
If your debtor refuses to pay during the extrajudicial phase, we can, in consultation with you, start legal proceedings. Of course, we will always let you know in advance what the possible costs are and will only get started after having received your permission.
Would you like to start legal collection proceedings against your French debtor? If so, the first question is in which country should you take legal action: in your country or in France? 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 French court. You then must go to France 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 of your country applies. We then get this difficult situation where the French court must judge the case based on the law in your country. A legal system he is unfamiliar 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.
Debt collection laws in France
When taking legal action against a debtor located in France, there are several French 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. You do not have to be present during these procedures. A French lawyer can carry out these legal proceedings for you without you having to go to France.
Order for payment proceedings (“Injonction de payer”)
If your claim is undisputed (that is to say, there is no disagreement about the invoice), our lawyers in France can commence an “injonction de payer”. The order for payment proceedings are a relatively cheap and fast way to get your invoices paid. The French lawyer will request that the court makes the debtor pay immediately. If the debtor registers an objection with the bailiff, then more extensive proceedings will be started.
Summary proceedings (“Procédure de référé”)
If the debtor indicates that they disagree with the invoice, the claim is disputed. In a disputed or larger claim, where the debtor cannot provide strong arguments, we advise to commence a “procédure de référé”. In these proceedings, your French lawyer will present your debtor with arguments as to why they should make the payment. This takes place through a bailiff. If the debtor indicates that they have made a mistake or if they are unable to counter these arguments properly, the court will be able to make a quick decision. The judge can make a summary decision without a hearing. However, if the court decides that there is a substantive dispute, then ordinary civil proceedings will be commenced.
Ordinary civil proceedings (“Procédure au fond”)
In case of more complex matters, a “procédure au fond” is required. In such proceedings, it is important to keep the pace as high as possible. The creditor is not required to attend the hearing at the French court. The entire proceedings can be conducted by the lawyer on the creditor’s behalf.
In the event of a bounced cheque, the bailiff can draft an enforceable title. The lawyer can immediately enforce this against the debtor.
International collection laws
In addition to French collection laws, there are also a few European measures that can be used if your French customer refuses to pay. For the European Union it is important 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 two 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, this is the French 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.
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 French debtor, we can start ordinary civil proceedings. Both parties will be heard, after which the court will make a judgement.
When a judgment has been obtained, it must still be executed in France. Within the EU, it has been established that all judgments passed in a member state are also recognised in other EU countries. A specific form must be requested for the enforcement of a foreign EU judgment in France. This form has to be sent to the bailiff in France, together with the foreign EU court's judgment. The bailiff then ensures that the judgment is executed in France.
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 France, the general limitation period is 5 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 5 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 5-year limitation period starts from this moment. Your invoice will therefore expire on May 1, 2022.
Preventing your invoice from expiring
It is possible to prevent your invoice from expiring by interrupting the limitation period. The interruption stops and resets the limitation period. In France, there are 2 ways to stop a limitation period:
- A letter from the debtor confirming the existence of an outstanding invoice. This is an official acknowledgement of debt which must be handwritten. In addition, the outstanding amount must be written out in letters. Another possibility is a signed contract that is drawn up in an official mediation procedure or in negotiations between lawyers.
- A subpoena.
Exceptions to the limitation period
For some claims, a different limitation period applies. According to the EU policy, a limitation period of 1 year often applies to matters relating to transport law.
In the case of a contract with a French construction company, the limitation period is 10 years. This applies to the building that has been built, not to the sale of building materials. The period of 10 years also applies if you have obtained a court ruling.
Legal areas for debt collection in France
Our French 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 businesses in France, as well as several French 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 Paris, Marseille or Lyon? The location of your debtor does not matter. Our specialists can assist you throughout France. It is no longer necessary for you to seek the help of a debt collection agency or a lawyer based in France in order to successfully collect your case. You can simply transfer your case to us online, and our French specialists will immediately start working on it.
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 French 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 organisation, as they will allow you to quickly get your payment.
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.
When the case is resolved, we do our best in order to recover the collection costs from your debtor. By that, we mean that we make your French customer pay the outstanding invoice, as well as the collection costs. That way, you will pay little to no collection fees to our organisation.
Do you have a French customer who has left your invoice unpaid? Or do you have another payment conflict with your customer? Our collection specialists and lawyers are happy to help you resolve your case. Feel free to contact us for more information. Do you no longer want to wait for your money? Then send us your invoice right away. Our specialists will immediately start working on your case.