Debt collection in Europe is different than the United States. Both the success rates and the average collected amounts are higher in Europe. Furthermore, it is common in Europe for attorneys to collect your debt prior to going to court. Bierens has a team of international in-house attorneys from over 20 different countries, who are specialized in collecting small or large past due accounts receivable in Europe. Under one roof, Bierens can provide fast and successful results anywhere in Europe.
Suggestions when your Belgian customer is not paying:
- Immediately send a reminder if your customer is not paying on time;
- State a specific number of days as the term of payment;
- The term of payment in Belgium is usually 14 days;
- Keep your reminder amiable;
- Create the impression that you assume this is simply a matter of human error.
Our Belgian Lawyers Are Familiar with Local Legislation
Our Belgian debt recovery lawyers have extensive experience with and knowledge of the law and legislation in Belgium. Furthermore, they are fully aware of commercial customs and culture in Belgium. That makes it easier to get your Belgian debtor to pay swiftly.
Debt Recovery in Dutch, French and German
Several languages are spoken in Belgium. Our lawyers speak your language, as well as the official Belgian languages Dutch, French and German, so they can easily overcome language barriers.
Customised Debt Recovery
Our commercial debt recovery approach is customised to each unique case, and we provide you with tailor-made 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.
The Debt Collection Process in Belgium
When dealing with a debt recovery matter in Belgium, the debt collection process can be divided into two phases. During the extrajudicial phase, collection takes place without Court intervention. During the judicial phase, the Court is involved. As we are a law firm, we can assist you during both phases. Most matters in Belgium are resolved without Court intervention.
1. Extrajudicial Debt Collection
- 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;
- Draft a payment arrangement: If necessary, we will agree to a payment arrangement with your debtor;
- Announcing legal proceedings: Often, announcing legal proceedings motivates your debtor to pay your invoice;
- Prejudgment seizure: 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 or an undisputed invoice owed by a third party. Certain conditions do need to be met. Your debtor is not notified of this seizure in advance, but he can appeal;
- Solvency research: Your lawyer and the court bailiff can investigate your debtor’s solvency. The bailiff will visit your customer to assess the situation there, including looking at the inventory. This provides us with up-to-date information on the financial position of the debtor and we can confront the debtor with this. Based on this investigation, we can let you have our specific advice regarding any potential further action to be taken.
2. Judicial Debt Collection
If your debtor refuses to pay during the extrajudicial phase, after discussion with you, we can go to Court. We always inform you in advance what the potential costs may be, and we do not proceed until we have your permission. In Belgium, there are a number of judicial proceedings you can commence to collect your money. The most important proceedings are explained below:
- Ordinary civil proceedings (“Bodemprocedure”): To involve the Court in order to collect your claim, our lawyers can summon your debtor to appear before the Court. If the debtor does not agree to pay, then the case becomes disputed. This does not concern a debt recovery where the debtor cannot pay, but rather a debtor who has provided the Court with reasons why they will not pay the invoice (a defence is filed). If a defence is filed, at the request of the parties, the Court will set up a schedule for submitting statements, so that the parties can respond to one another’s point of view. However, in most cases no defence is filed. If this happens, the Court will usually issue a judgment in favour of the creditor (called a judgment in default).
- European Order for Payment: In the event of an undisputed claim between two parties based in EU Member States, 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 respond, if 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. 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 proceed.