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 Spanish customer is not paying:
- Call your customer and ask why no payment has taken place;
- Are you unable to resolve the matter together? Send a demand letter by registered post (“burofax”).
- Be aware that your Spanish debtor may be trying to gain extra time with dubious payment arrangements or disputes. Be persistent, clear, and do not wait too long;
- In Spain, a period of payment of three to seven days is common;
- In your reminder, state that you feel compelled to take further action if the debtor does not comply with your demand;
- Preferably, enter into written agreements.
Our Spanish Lawyers Are Familiar with Local Legislation
Our Spanish debt recovery lawyers have extensive experience and knowledge of Spanish legislation and regulations. In addition, they are fully aware of commercial traditions and culture in Spain. That makes it easier to get your Spanish debtor to pay quickly.
Debt Recovery in the Spanish Language
Our lawyers speak both your language and Spanish, which allows them to overcome language barriers with ease.
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 Spain
The debt collection process in Spain can be divided into two stages. During the extrajudicial phase, collection takes place without Court intervention. During the judicial phase, we do involve the Court in order to make your Spanish debtor pay. Because we are a law firm, we can assist you during both stages. In Spain, 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 avoid the need to go to Court, as this can be time-consuming. We will contact your Spanish 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;
- Registration on the black list: Our Spanish team can also register your debtor on a black list, (the “ASNEF”). Companies registered on this list often experience difficulty finding new trade partners or maintaining existing relationships. Moreover, it is often difficult for companies on this list to get further credit. As your customer undoubtedly wants to prevent that, this is a good means of exerting pressure.
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. Spain has various options to proceed against a debtor. Depending on the type and size of claim, we have the following options during the judicial phase to exact payment:
- Order for payment proceedings (“Proceso monitorio”): In an order for payment procedure, a request is made to the Court, which sends the debtor an order. The debtor then has only twenty days to respond. The debtor can either pay your claim, or submit a defence. If a defence is filed, the case is automatically referred to ordinary civil proceedings. If the debtor does not put forward a defence, the order for payment can lead to a judgment relatively quickly;
- Summary proceedings (“Juicio verbal”) (claims up to €6,000): In a summary proceeding, a writ of summons is sent to the court, and the debtor may file a defence. Usually, the judge will make a decision on paper, but the parties can also request a hearing;
- Ordinary civil proceedings (“Juicio ordinario”) (claims over €6,000): Ordinary civil proceedings for claims of over €6,000 are extensive and can be time consuming (on average, one to two years). Again, the creditor files its writ of summon and the debtor can file a defence. There is usually a pre-hearing to establish the facts, proof and witnesses, and then a date is set for the trial;
- “Juicio cambiario”: If your claim is based on a bounced cheque or bill of exchange, then in Spain there is a separate procedure. Based on these bills of exchange or cheques, the Court orders the debtor to effect payment within ten days. Simultaneously, the Court can levy a prejudgment seizure on goods belonging to 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.