Debt collection in Germany
Does your company have to deal with a debt collection case in Germany because a German customer has not paid your invoice? Our German 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 if you want to engage with a debt collection agency and recover debt from Germany.
“The German legal system protects debtors. Therefore, we have to be smart and act quickly and effectively in order to make your debtor pay their invoice.”
International debt collection in Germany
When doing business with a German trading partner, you are confronted with different trading traditions and customs than those you are used to. Moreover, legislation differs in Germany than in your country. In addition, language and culture are a barrier as well.
All the above often makes debt collection in Germany to be complicated and time-consuming for you. That is why you should call in our German specialists. They have the means to get your debtor to pay.
Payment behaviour of German companies
- The legal payment term for invoices is 30 days
- German companies are among the best payers in Europe
- Around 16% of German companies do not pay on time
- A payment term of 14 days is customary when sending a reminder
Debt collection in Germany
The Germans are among the best payers in Europe. Nevertheless, more than 16% of German debtors do not pay on time. Therefore, it is important to have a good credit management system for German customers, especially if you are not located in Germany yourself.
After the first demand letter, it is usually already evident whether legal proceedings will be required or not. In Germany, amicable procedures are difficult to reach when settling conflicts, and your German business partner will not hesitate to hire a lawyer. For a successful settlement of your debt collection case, it is advisable to seek the aid of a German debt collection lawyer.
Advantages of debt collection in Germany
- German collection lawyers in your country
- German-speaking lawyers
- Highest success rates
- Collection throughout Germany
- Always a single point of contact
- 24/7 online access to our portal
- No Cure No Pay debt collection
German lawyer in your country
The best way to collect your invoice in Germany is by seeking the help of one of our German Rechtsanwalt (lawyer), or collection specialists. You will not have to travel to Germany, as you can simply contact our specialists at Bierens. They have extensive knowledge and experience with the laws and regulations. It goes without saying that they collect in German, their native language. This way we can make your German debtor pay quickly.
Debt collection procedure in Germany
The collection process in Germany 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 German 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.
Announcing legal proceedings
In case of non-payment, we can start legal proceedings in consultation with you. Often the announcement of a legal procedure will already persuade your German customer to pay anyway.
If your debtor refuses to pay during the extrajudicial phase, we can go to court in consultation with you. For this purpose we do a credit check and analyse the financial situation of your debtor. This enables us to better assess how your debtor is doing financially and determine whether legal proceedings are worthwhile. In most cases, when the claim is disputed, we must start legal proceedings. 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 German debtor? If so, the first question is in which country should you litigate? In your own country or in Germany? The answer will depend on the competent court.
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 German court. You must then go to Germany to follow legal proceedings there.
In addition, 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 is applicable. We then get this difficult situation where the German court must judge the case according to the law of your country. A legal system he is not familiar with. This is not a desirable situation, which is why our advice is to make agreements about this in your general terms and conditions. You can also agree that you can litigate in your own country, should a conflict arise.
Debt collection laws in Germany
When taking legal action against a German customer, there are several German 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.
The German legal system protects debtors. Therefore, it is harder to make a German debtor pay. However, our lawyers know which collection methods can and need to be used in order to collect a debt in Germany.
The “Mahnverfahren” is an accelerated procedure for undisputed claims. It is characterized by its speed, simplicity and low cost. Within a relatively short period of time, you can obtain an enforcement order (“Vollstreckungsbescheid”); which orders the debtor to pay both your claim and the costs of the proceedings. Your debtor only has a few weeks to raise legal objection. If that does not happen, then the order for payment becomes legally binding and we can commence enforcement proceedings, such as seizure of the debtor’s bank account or sending a bailiff to recover the debt.
Ordinary civil proceedings (Klageverfahren)
Is your claim disputed? In that case, it is advisable to start with an ordinary civil procedure. Both parties must substantiate their statement with supporting documents. After one or more court hearings, the court will make a judgement. With this judgment, we will be able to for example have the debtor's bank account seized. Settlement is still possible prior to this judgement.
International collection laws
In addition to German collection laws, there are also a few European measures that can be used if your German customer refuses to pay. For the European Union it is important to stimulate trade between European countries. 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 to have jurisdiction. Which is, in this case, the German 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 European Payment Order only applies to undisputed claims. Although it is a simple procedure, it is not often used for German debtors. The German Mahnverfahren procedure is fairly similar to this procedure, but a lot more effective and faster.
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 German 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 Germany. 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 Germany. This form has to be sent to the bailiff in Germany, together with the foreign EU court's judgment. The bailiff then ensures that the judgment is executed in Germany.
Once the limitation period has 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 prescription period.
For business claims in Germany, the general limitation period is 3 years. This period starts at the end of the year in which the claim arose.
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 limitation period began on December 31, 2017 and lasts for 3 years. Your invoice will therefore expire on December 31, 2020.
Exceptions to the limitation period
The limitation period of 3 years applies to normal claims. Bear in mind that the limitation period for some claims is different. For instance, claims related to transport law throughout Europe have a limitation period of 1 year. For their part, freight forwarders only have 9 months to file a claim, from the date the shipment is delivered.
In German law, however, other limitation periods sometimes apply as well. For example:
- In the case of a building contract (“Werkvertrag”): if there is a work delay in connection with the production, maintenance or modification (e.g. a repair) of an object, a limitation period of 2 years applies.
- In the case of a construction contract: if there is a work delay in connection with the construction of a building, a limitation period of 5 years applies.
Therefore, when concluding a contract with a German business partner, always ask a specialist for advice on what the limitation periods are.
Preventing your invoice from expiring in Germany
It is possible to prevent your invoice from expiring by interrupting the limitation period. The interruption stops the limitation period. In Germany, the limitation period can only be interrupted in one way, namely by starting legal proceedings.
Legal areas for debt collection in Germany
For years, Bierens has helped many companies around the world with their debt collection cases in Germany. Thanks to our expertise, we have not only assisted foreign businesses, but also German firms in their own country. We specialise in debt collection cases in various areas of law:
- Buying and selling
- Construction law
- Rental and leasing
- Agency agreement 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 Berlin, Cologne or Frankfurt? The location of your debtor does not matter. Our specialists can assist you throughout Germany. It is no longer necessary for you to seek the help of a debt collection agency or a lawyer based in Germany in order to successfully collect your case. You can simply transfer your case online, and our German specialists will immediately get to work.
More than a debt collection agency
If you are looking for a collection agency, you are actually better off with a debt collection lawyer. Our German debt collection lawyers have more resources than a debt collection agency. Moreover, they work faster and are also more successful. This is beneficial for you and your organisation, as you will quickly have your money in your bank account.
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 be receiving what you are entitled to.
When the case is resolved, we do our best in order to recover the collection costs from your debtor. In that case, you German debtor will pay the outstanding invoice, as well as the collection costs. This way, you will pay little to no collection fees to our organisation.
Do you have a German customer who has left your invoice unpaid? Or do you have a different conflict with your customer? Our collection specialists and lawyers are happy to help you resolve your payment conflict. 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.