Debt collection in Belgium
Does your company have to deal with a debt collection case in Belgium because a Belgian customer does not pay your invoice? Our Belgian debt collection specialists and lawyers will be happy to help you. We ensure that your outstanding invoice is paid quickly. Read here why you would be better off by entrusting us with your case instead of a debt collection agency.
International collection in Belgium
When you do business with a Belgian trading partner, you are confronted with business practices, customs, as well as rules and regulations that are very different from the ones you are used to. In addition, you also must deal with different languages. That makes debt recovery in Belgium often complicated and time-consuming for you. Save your time and money by calling in one of our Belgian specialists. They have the means to make your debtor pay.
Payment behavior of Belgian companies
- Belgium is traditionally very open to international trade.
- The legal payment period for invoices is 30 days.
- The payment behavior of Belgian companies has improved considerably.
- A payment term of 7 days is customary when sending a reminder.
Debt collection in Belgium
The payment behavior in Belgium is pretty good. Credit management within many Belgian companies has improved considerably in recent years. However, many invoices are still being paid too late. Therefore, it is important to have a good credit management system for Belgian customers.
The debt recovery process, as well as the legislation in Belgium, can greatly differ from what you are used to. Legal procedures can take a very long time, but the costs are relatively low.
Benefits of collecting debts in Belgium with Bierens
- Belgian debt collection lawyers based in the United States
- English speaking lawyers
- Highest success rates
- Debt recovery throughout Belgium
- Always only one point of contact
- 24/7 access to our online platform
Belgian lawyer in the United States
The best way to collect your invoice in Belgium is by contacting one of our Belgian lawyers or collection specialists. By doing that, you will not have to worry about anything, or even travel to Belgium: our debt collection specialists will take care of everything.
They have extensive knowledge and experience with laws and regulations in Belgium and speak Dutch and French fluently. Therefore, they will be able to make your Belgian debtor pay quickly.
How can we help you?
- Amicable debt collection
- Judicial debt collection
- Small Claims Procedure
- European Payment Order (EPO)
- Enforcing a judgment in Belgium
- Debt collection prevention
- Advising on contracts and general terms and conditions
- Legal support for bankrupt customers
Collection procedure in Belgium
The collection process in Belgium can be divided into two phases. In the extrajudicial phase, the debt is collected without the intervention of a judge. In the judicial phase, a judge intervenes to make your Belgian customer pay. It is also possible to seize your debtor’s assets as a means of pressure. Since we are a law firm, we can assist you during both processes.
Here at Bierens, the debt collection procedure always starts with the extrajudicial phase. During this phase, we try to avoid the intervention of a judge. To do so, we will personally contact your Belgian debtor to ensure that your invoice is paid. During the extrajudicial phase in Belgium, several options are possible:
Written demand letters and phone calls
We send the debtor a written demand letter and contact them by telephone. We request 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
Most debtors want to avoid legal proceedings because it can be time-consuming, and it costs extra money. So, announcing legal proceedings often motivates your debtor to pay your invoice.
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 on 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 they can appeal.
Our lawyers can investigate your debtor’s solvency. In such cases, solvency is inquired with the CBB (Central register of seizure, delegation, assignment, collective debt settlement, and protest). Doing solvency research is always recommended before proceeding to a prejudgment seizure.
Visit the debtor
As an intermediate step for legal proceedings, we also offer the option of organizing a site visit. The bailiff will visit your customer to assess the situation there, look at the inventory, but also hand over a payment reminder. This provides us with up-to-date information on the financial position of the debtor. Based on this investigation, we can provide specific advice regarding any potential further action to be taken.
What if the debtor refuses to pay during the amicable phase?
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.
Do you want to start a judicial debt collection procedure against your Belgian debtor? Then the first thing to know is: in which country should you litigate? In your own country or Belgium? The answer will depend on the competent judge.
In your general terms and conditions, you can make agreements about the competent court in the event of a (payment) conflict. The clause in which this is stated is called the choice of forum.
Did you not make any agreement or are they not applicable? Then the main rule is that the court in the country of the defendant has jurisdiction. Which is, in this case, the Belgian court. You must then go to Belgium to follow legal proceedings there.
In addition, the main rule is that the law of the country of the seller or service provider applies. So, in this case, Dutch law is applicable. This means we will get a situation where the Belgian court has to judge the case according to Dutch law. A legal system he is not familiar with.
It is better to avoid these situations. Therefore, our advice is to make agreements about the applicable law and the competent court in your terms and conditions. For more information about your specific situation, ask our lawyers for advice.
Debt collection laws in Belgium
When taking legal action against a debtor located in Belgium, there are several Belgian 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.
Ordinary civil proceedings (“Bodemprocedure”)
Ordinary civil proceedings are a popular means to collect your claim, whether it is disputed or not. If the case cannot be settled during a preliminary hearing, the Court will set up a schedule for submitting statements, so that the parties can respond to one another’s point of view.
In general, there are 3 time periods within which you and the defendant must respond. Two of them are for the debtor and one is for the claimant, who is, in that case, you. In some cases, there can also be 5 time periods (3 for the debtor and 2 for the claimant).
Each party is given at least one month to respond. After the periods have expired, a date for the hearing is determined. This is the day where the case is being argued.
International debt collection laws
In addition to Belgian collection laws, there are also a few European measures that can be used if your Belgian customer refuses to pay.
It is important for the European Union that trade between European countries is stimulated. Therefore, complicated procedures are unwanted. That is why, in addition to the normal procedures, two alternative procedures 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. To launch them, 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 Belgian court. The court then deals with the collection case and makes a judgment about it.
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. This procedure is less popular in Belgium, where the accelerated procedure works very well.
However, you must bear in mind that if the claim is disputed by the debtor, the proceedings will then be stopped. In that case, you will have to fall back on an ordinary civil procedure.
- Tips for doing business in Belgium
- Payment behavior of Belgian companies
- Tips for sending payment reminders to your Belgian debtor
- Tips for sending payment reminders to your Belgian debtor
- The payment period for Belgian invoices
- Collection costs
- Bankruptcy of a Belgian customer
Litigation in the United States
Have you agreed in the general terms and conditions that the American court is competent? Then legal proceedings can be started in the USA. 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 Belgian debtor, we can start ordinary civil proceedings. Both parties will be heard, after which the court will make a judgement.
It is, however, important to weigh up the costs and benefits. Litigation can be more expensive in your country because of the court fees. They can, in fact, be much higher in your country than in Belgium, where the court fees always amount to € 165, regardless of the amount being claimed.
On the other hand, conducting proceedings in your country is often not something that a Belgian debtor is wanting. This means that cases are often resolved in the extrajudicial phase when the proceedings are conducted in your own country.
Votre entreprise est-elle basée au sein de l’Union européenne ? La justice de votre pays a-t-elle rendue un jugement en votre faveur ? Il faut toujours qu’il soit exécuté en France. Un jugement rendu dans un état de l’Union européenne est reconnu dans les autres pays membres.
Un formulaire spécifique pour l'exécution d'un jugement européen en France doit être demandé. Ce formulaire doit ensuite être envoyé à l'huissier de justice en France, accompagné du jugement rendu par le tribunal de votre pays. L'huissier français s'assurera ensuite que le jugement soit exécuté en 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 Belgium, the general limitation period is 10 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 10 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 10-year limitation period starts from this moment. Your invoice will expire on May 1, 2027.
Exceptions to the limitation period
For some claims, a different limitation period applies. According to the EU policy, a limitation period of 1 year applies to all matters relating to transport law. A limitation period of 1 year also applies to Belgian lease contracts. In matters relating to non-contractual damage, the invoice expires after 5 years.
Preventing your invoice from expiring in Belgium
It is possible to prevent your invoice from expiring by interrupting the limitation period. The interruption stops and resets the limitation period. In Belgium, there are 3 ways to stop a prescription period:
- A recognition of debt, such as a letter from the debtor confirming that there is an outstanding invoice.
- A subpoena.
- A notice of default with acknowledgment of receipt, sent by your lawyer. This notice of default must meet specific requirements.
As you can guess, it is most advantageous to send the letter of suspension at the end of the limitation period. But of course, make sure that you do this on time, before the limitation period has expired. Otherwise, there is a risk that your invoice will become expired and you will no longer be able to collect your claim legally.
Judicial debt collection in Belgium
For years, Bierens has helped many companies around the world with their debt collection cases in Belgium. Thanks to our expertise, we have not only assisted foreign businesses, but also Belgian firms in their own country. We specialize in debt collection cases in various areas of law:
- Buying and selling
- Leasing and renting
- 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 Antwerp, Leuven or Gent? The location of your debtor does not matter. Our specialists can assist you throughout Belgium. It is no longer necessary for you to seek the help of a debt collection agency or a lawyer based in Belgium to successfully collect your debt.
You can simply transfer your case to us online, and our Belgian specialists will immediately start working on it. Thanks to our own office in Antwerp, we can effectively collect your claims in Belgium.
We offer more than a collection agency
If you are currently looking for a collection agency, know that you would be better off with a collection lawyer. Our Belgian 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 organization, as they will allow you to quickly get your money.
No Win No Fee 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 €165 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 entire claim. We try to recover this fee from the debtor as much as possible. For example, a successful collection case will cost you almost nothing! We call that justice, for you are getting exactly what you are entitled to.
When the case is resolved, we do our best to recover the collection costs from your debtor. By that, we mean that we make your Belgian customer pay the outstanding invoice, as well as the collection costs. That way, you will pay little to no collection fees to our organization.
Do you have a Belgian customer who leaves 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.
Faire affaire en France
- Devise : l’euro.
- Langues : le français.
- La France est le plus grand pays de l’Union européenne.
- La France est la destination touristique la plus populaire au monde.
- Plus de 77% de la main d’œuvre française est employée dans le secteur des services.
- En France, la culture d’entreprise est formelle et hiérarchique.
- Une bonne relation de confiance est importante.
- Les longs déjeuners d’affaire sont très communs.
- Le délai de paiement légal pour les factures est de 30 jours.
- Environ 60% des entreprises françaises ne paient pas dans les délais requis.
- Un délai de paiement de 8 jours est habituel après l’envoi d’un rappel de paiement.