Debt Collection in France

Does your company have a French customer who is not paying your invoice? French companies are among the worst payers in Europe, despite the fact that the French economy remained relatively stable during the credit crisis. The French economy is primarily based on SMEs; if your French debtor is one of them, information is less accessible, which makes it harder to get your claim paid. Our French debt recovery lawyers have the means to make your debtor pay. From the moment that you hand your debt recovery matter to us, we will do all we can to collect your money.

Suggestions when your French customer is not paying

  • The sooner you act, the more serious the debtor will take you;
  • A reminder by telephone is often more effective than a written reminder;
  • Does your reminder by telephone not have any effect? Then send a formal demand letter;
  • A demand letter can be sent by regular or registered post;

More suggestions

  • A reminder to a French debtor should usually include:
    • A demand to effect payment;
    • A time period for payment;
    • The obligations of the debtor;
    • A warning about the legal consequences of failing to pay.
  • The period of payment is usually 7 days in France;
  • Add a specification of the claim to your reminder;
  • Announce in the reminder that if your customer does not pay, the claim will be handed over for collection at the customer’s expense;
  • The French are easily impressed by a lawyer who demands payment from them.

Debt Collection France

Debt Collection France

  • Our French Lawyers Are Familiar with Local Legislation

Our French debt recovery lawyers have considerable experience and knowledge of French legislation and regulations. In addition, they are fully aware of commercial traditions and culture in France. That makes it easier for us to get your French debtor to pay quickly.

  • Debt Recovery in the French Language

Our lawyers speak both your language and French, which allows them to overcome language barriers with ease.

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  • Customised Debt Recovery

Our commercial debt recovery approach is customised to each unique case, and we provide you with tailor-made advice.

  • Straightforward Advice

We will always give our honest advice on the chances of success in your debt recovery matter. Putting your interests first is important to us; we endeavour to provide you with your options, as well as our advice on the best route to take. It’s easy to see how we put our core values of integrity and justice into practice.

Advice without obligation?

Please fill in the form below, or call us on: +44 (0)20 3808 5878, and our experts will be happy to help you with any questions that you might have. Alternatively, you can also send us an e-mail with your query.
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The Debt Collection Process in France

The debt collection process in France can be divided into two stages. During the extrajudicial phase, collection takes place without Court intervention. During the judicial phase, we involve the Court in order to make your France debtor pay. Because we are a law firm, we can assist you during both stages. In France, most matters are resolved during the extrajudicial phase, without Court intervention.

1. Extrajudicial Debt Collection

In principle, we always start the debt collection process with the extrajudicial phase. During this phase, we try to prevent the need to go to Court, as this can be expensive. We will contact your French debtor to demand payment. At this stage, we have the following options:
  • 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;
  • 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;
  • Effect a settlement: the French Court requires that you try to settle the matter with your debtor, prior to starting legal proceedings. So in most matters, 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, as well as the existence of any potential other creditors;
  • Prejudgment charge: 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 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 of 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.

2. Judicial Debt Collection

If your debtor refuses to pay during the extrajudicial phase, after discussion with you, we can go to Court. We will always provide you with information in advance regarding the potential costs, and we only proceed with your permission. In France, there are a number of legal proceedings you can commence to collect your claim. The most important procedures are explained below:
  • 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 effect 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 conducted by the lawyer on the creditor’s behalf;
  • Bounced cheque: In the event of a bounced cheque, the bailiff can draft an enforceable title. The lawyer can immediately enforce this against the debtor;

European Order for Payment proceedings:

  • In the event of an undisputed claim between two parties based in EU Member States (except Denmark), it is possible to commence European Order for Payment proceedings. The lawyer handling your case can assess whether this kind of procedure is suitable in your case.
  • For European Order for Payment proceedings, the creditor usually completes a standard form and submits this to the Court. The Court then issues a European Order for Payment. The debtor then has 30 days to state whether they object to the claim. If there is no response within the 30-day period, you may ask the Court to make the order for payment final (called a “declaration of enforceability”). This is a valid and enforceable judgment which is accepted in any Member State (except Denmark). The European Order for Payment is never appropriate for disputed matters (so not in cases where there is an argument about the invoice). The advantage of this procedure are speed and low costs (some Member States don’t even charge a court fee), but the disadvantage is that if it becomes disputed, the procedure comes to an end and an ordinary civil procedure will have to be started if the creditor wants to continue.