In the context of the economic crisis that affected companies all over the world, Belgium has also experienced difficulties. There weren’t few Belgian companies that have reached critical situations in which they could not pay their debts and ended up in bankruptcy. But before commencing liquidation procedures, companies can reach an agreement with their creditors and start a debt recovery procedure.
The out-of-court debt recovery procedure in Belgium
The first debt recovery attempt will usually be done outside the court of justice in Belgium. There are no special provisions for this stage of the debt collection process, only the fact that reminder letters will be sent to the debtor. In case of companies, bailiffs can check a debtor’s general situation with the Belgian Companies Register. For financial situations, a fee must be paid.
Debt collection can be conducted by debt collecting agencies in Belgium or Belgian attorneys in the early stages. They will contact the debtor by sending dunning letters or by phone actions in order to reach an amicable agreement by deciding on a payment plan.
What should one do during the out-of-court procedure in Belgium?
A company or a natural person that deals with debt collection in Belgium can try a set of methods prior to reaching the court procedures. Once the debt is registered, it is highly recommended to send the debtor a reminder on the amount due, considering that the situation can be just a matter of error. It is also necessary to specify a definite period of time up until the debtor can pay the amount of money.
As a general rule, in such cases, the term of payment in this country is established at 14-15 days. Generally, this is the procedure that is employed on debt consumer cases, which are regulated under the 20 December 2002 Law on Amicable Consumer Debt Collection.
This rule of law is specifically created for out-of-court proceedings and it regulates the manner in which companies can collect debts from their clients. Thus, it is only applicable to measures that can be used only prior to addressing the case to a Belgian court; however, if the case needs to be presented in front of a court, our team of debt collection lawyers in Belgium can represent companies during the proceedings.
Businesses that need to recover a debt in Belgium from their clients should consider that, under this rule of law, they are not allowed to charge interest or additional costs besides the value of the claim; however, an exemption is granted in this case and companies can charge interest on the value of the debt as long as there is a contract between the two parties that specifically prescribes the right of the creditor to add various costs in the event of a debt.
The legislation also stipulates that the creditor is not entitled to misinform the debtor, nor is he or she allowed to use legal threatening against the debtor. Furthermore, the law bans any type of unfair practices for the recovery of the debt.
Are there any cross-border methods for the collection of debts in Belgium?
Yes, in the event in which the debt collection in Belgium involves a party that resides outside the country, the legislation prescribes legal procedures that can be used for the recovery of the debt. In the case of entities residing in one of the member states of the European Union (EU), the European Order for Payment Procedure (Regulation EC No. 1896/2006) will apply, with the exception of Denmark. This can be used for debt collection procedures involving civil and commercial entities.
How can one request the European Order for Payment Procedure in Belgium?
The European Order for Payment Procedure can be used as a means to recover a debt in Belgium or in other European countries and it applies to most of the debt collection situations. The document can’t be used, however, for matters such as inheritance or cases deriving from the marriage legislation.
The document can be requested at a competent court in Belgium, by signing a specific form (Form A); the court will then analyze the case and issue a decision regarding the validity of the case. In the case in which the debt collection case in Belgium is recognized by the local court, the recovery of the debt can start. If the court considers that the person is not entitled to request the document, other methods are available for the claimant, who can provide additional information and who can benefit from a re-assessment of the case.
Court actions for debt collection in Belgium
There are several court actions that can be fulfilled in a debt recovery process. In Belgium, the following debt collection procedures are available and our team of debt collection lawyers can provide an in-depth presentation on the procedures involved in each of the following:
- claims that do not exceed EUR 1,860 can be subject to conciliation proceedings, summary proceedings and an expedited and simplified procedure;
- debts exceeding the value of EUR 1,860 will be tried by the Commercial Court in Belgium, or according to the European legislation, specifically Reg. 2006/1986 for cross-border claims, an European execution for payment proceeding can be enabled;
- another method for debt recovery in Belgium is enabling an European Small Claims proceeding according to the European Reg. 861/2007;
- the action on merits court procedure allows the tribunal to set a schedule for filing the necessary documentation and then the debtor and the creditor can communicate in writing.
- another, but less common debt collection court action in Belgium is the attachment procedure (this procedure is rarely employed due to its considerably high costs).
What does the request for payment contain in Belgium?
One of the ways to address a debtor in Belgium is by sending a request for payment. This document must contain a set of data in order to be legally recognized. Provided that the document does not enclose all the required aspects, it will lose its validity, which means that it will not have any legal effect.
The document should contain an excerpt from the Belgian Judicial Code, presenting the simplified procedure for debt collection in Belgium. It should also include the request to pay the debt in a period of maximum 15 days, counting from the date since the debtor received the document; it should also state the value of the claims, and the Belgian court that will deal with the case if the debtor refuses the pay his or her debt.
The creditor must also prepare additional information for the issuance of an order of payment, which must state the exact date (day, month, year) when the document is signed, the name, address and other personal data of the claimant, his or her legal representatives, the subject of the claim, the court that will handle the case, as well as the signature of the debt collection lawyer in Belgium who represents the claimant, and the claimant’s signature.
The prescription time span for a court action is 10 years. If you need assistance in litigation cases or details about the debt recovery procedure you can contact our debt collection lawyers in Belgium. Our lawyers can provide legal representation to both natural persons and legal entities involved in the recovery of a debt in this country.