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How does international debt collection work?

Do you conduct business internationally? If so, the chances are at some point you’ll come across a customer who hasn’t paid your invoice. If this happens then you cannot simply collect the outstanding invoice in accordance with the rules and regulations of your own country 

Debt collection varies dependent on the country of your debtor. Not only this, there are other challenges to overcome such as language and business culture.  

International debt collection

International debt collection 

When your foreign customer doesn’t pay, there are many different challenges and consequences than when your debtor is simply in the same country as you. To understand this in more detail, below we explain how an international debt collection takes place: 

Contact with the debtor 

If your international invoice has not been paid, we recommend that you always make contact with your cross-border client first. However, it is often more difficult to communicate with a foreign debtor. Not only does the language cause a barrier but another trade culture also influences communication with your debtor. Try to adjust your international debt collection policy to your debtor. It is always better to try and communicate in the same language as your debtor: something we can certainly help you with. After all, when it comes to legal documents, we have seen a lot get lost in translation. 

Transfer your case online 

Unable to collect your international debt yourself? Then you can transfer the claim for collection. It is often mistakenly thought that a collection can only start in your debtor’s country. However, that is not the case. If you want to transfer your claim for collection, you can do this by filling in a quick form. Send us your details, the details of your debtor, the outstanding invoice and any other relevant information, and we will start working on your case. 

Send us your case before 16:00pm and we'll get to work immediately!

The right specialist for your business 

With a foreign debt collection or cross-border recovery, we look at which specialist can best handle your case. This mainly focuses on the nationality of the collection specialist. For example, your Italian collection will usually be handled by one of our Italian collection specialists. After all, they speak the language, know Italian trade traditions and have extensive experience with legislation in Italy. Moreover, the sector or the complexity of the case is considered. Based on these specialisms, we ensure that the right person always handles your case. 

Want to know more about debt collection in a particular country? Select the country of your debtor for more specific advice on how we can help recover your outstanding international invoice.  

Experts in international debt collection  

After you have transferred your collection case, a debt recovery specialist will immediately start working on it. We always start with the pre-legal phase. This means that we try to prevent intervention of a judge. Because we have access to foreign databases, we are able to trace almost all foreign debtors. They are then approached in their own language, both by telephone and in writing. In most cases, the debtor then pays. 

“Bierens and its team of international lawyers understand the needs of companies and can adapt to any situation.”

Lea Macedoni / Alessi


International judicial debt collection  

If we have been unable to get your foreign customer to pay during the pre-legal phase, then we can go to court. Before we start the international judicial debt collection process, we first investigate the feasibility of legal proceedings. We look at the financial situation of your debtor, but also at the legal system in the country of your debtor. We always give a realistic picture of your chances of success. In some cases, we will litigate in your debtor’s country, but it is also possible to litigate in your own country. This applies, for example, if you have contractually agreed that disputes will be submitted to the court in your own country. 

Small Claims Procedure  

The Small Claims Procedure is an effective judicial procedure for international claims up to €5,000. It is a relatively simple procedure that can be used in almost all EU Member States. As a creditor, you must complete a standard claim form A and send it to the court. The court will deal with your case in writing. A hearing at the court will only take place if the judge deems it necessary.  

The processing times for this procedure are very short, so that you can quickly obtain clarity about your debt collection case. Moreover, there are very few costs incurred for this procedure. However, the Small Claims Procedure is only suitable for small claims. Is your claim higher than €5,000? Then this legal procedure cannot be initiated. You may be able to use the European Order for Payment Procedure however.  

European Order for Payment Procedure 

Is your company and debtor based in an EU Member State? Then in some cases we can also start a European order for payment procedure. For this you need to fill in a standard form, which we then submit to the court. The court then issues a European order for payment. From then, your debtor has 30 days to respond if they disagree with the claim. After these 30 days, the payment order is final. This judgment is accepted in every EU member state. The advantage of this procedure is the low costs and the fact that it is a relatively fast procedure. The disadvantage is that this procedure cannot be used for disputed claims. 

The advantages of a Bierens Debt Recovery Lawyer

  • Succesfully recovering debt since 1952
  • Always honest and clear advice
  • Specialist laywers in international debt recovery
  • Every year we collect thousands of outstanding invoices

Litigation abroad 

If your foreign customer does not pay and legal proceedings are required, you must bear in mind that the international judicial debt collection process will be different in each country. Every country has its own laws and rules. In addition, the duration of a collection procedure varies from country to country. Therefore, keep in mind that the legal proceedings can take a lot longer than you are used to. Your collection lawyer will of course tell you more about what you can expect with a foreign collection procedure. 

Who pays debt collection fees? 

We believe outstanding invoices is unfair enough. But then having to pay debt collection fees just to get your money back, that’s just injustice personified. That’s why we operate on a no win, no fee basis. During the pre-legal phase, we will do everything in our power to get your money back. We successfully collect debt 96% of the time during the pre-legal phase. 

As a law firm, we can take your debtor to court however, should your debtor dispute your invoice, or we are unable to collect during the pre-legal phase. In this scenario, we will operate on a no cure, no pay basis.  

No cure, no pay debt collection 

No cure, no pay operates similarly to No Win, No Fee. As a law firm, we are ordered by the Bar Association to charge you for our services.  We think you should always be able to opt for a topquality debt recovery solicitor and that the debtor should bear as much of your costs as possibleThis is why we only charge you a fixed amount of €150 for administrative costs. 

Has your debtor only paid part of the principal amount due to a dispute or insolvency? Then, in addition to our administrative costs, we will also charge a fee in accordance with a set graduated scale. 

Want to know more about our fees and no win, no fee debt collectionGet in touch with us today to see how we can help you.

“Bierens are specialists in the field of business-to-business debt recovery. Their approach stands for quality, decisiveness, and results, which is exactly what KLM is looking for.”

Ben Blad / KLM

Payment of your invoice 

You can follow the status of your collection case, live, via our web portal. Our collection specialist will of course keep you informed when there are important developments in your case. When the debtor makes a payment, they will pay any or all monies into our third-party account. We then transfer this money to your company from this account. Within a few days you will receive an overview of the claim paid and the outstanding amount will be transferred to you. 

Advantages of using a debt collection agency  

  1. Knowledge of Local Legislation and Customs of Trade

Our solicitors have extensive experience and knowledge of European legislation and regulations. In addition, they are fully aware of commercial traditions and cultures within each European country. That makes it easier to get your debtor to pay quickly 

  1. Debt Recovery in Local Language

Our solicitors speak both your language and the language of your debtor, which allows them to overcome language barriers with ease. We have seen, in practice, that debtors are more willing to pay when they are approached in their own language. 

  1. Customised Debt Collection

We can provide debt collection support to both European companies and global companies with debtors based in Europe. Our commercial debt recovery approach is customised to each unique case, and we provide you with tailor-made advice. 

  1. 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. 

Specialists in International Debt Collection

Our 35 international lawyers are specialists in debt collection across Europe. From the moment that you hand your case over to us, we will do our utmost to resolve the matter as soon as possible. Whether this concerns a straightforward debt recovery matter or a complicated legal conflict, we will unburden you.

More information  

Do you have an outstanding invoice abroad and would you like more information about international collection? Contact us today. Our international collection specialists and lawyers are happy to help you further. 

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