Doing business and collecting in Flanders, Belgium’s Dutch language province, is somewhat like doing business and collecting in the Netherlands. On the other hand, doing business and collecting in Wallonia, Belgium’s French language province, is more comparable to the payment culture in France. After Germany, Belgium is the Netherlands’ most important commercial partner. It does happen that debtors do not pay on time. What is your best option when faced with default by a Belgian customer?
1. Demanding payment
It is quite common to send a series of reminders and demands for payment to the debtor. Most claims are collected out of court. It can be possible to work out a payment schedule or friendly settlement with the debtor.
2. Assigning claims
Should your Belgian customer not pay, you can transfer the claim to Bierens Collection Attorneys. We will then recommend some course of action. This is often serving a summons on the debtor or preparing a case file. It will also take account of the case’s chances of success, litigation risk, and the costs and benefits for you as the creditor.
Bierens has a French and a Flemish section and its own office in Antwerp. Our employees have a perfect command both of Dutch and French, as well as English, so that you can discuss your case fruitfully with them, while they can act forcefully to collect in Belgium. Moreover, they are thoroughly familiar with Belgium’s laws, regulations, and culture in both Flanders and Wallonia.
3 Dealing with collections in Belgium
A. Extrajudicial collections
Bierens always send two demand letters. If there is no response from the debtor, there will then be a follow-up telephone call to see why payment is not being made. This telephone call also serves to work out a payment schedule with the debtor. If the debtor still does not pay, Bierens then sends an advisory letter. This informs the client about possible legal measures, the costs involved, litigation risk, and makes a recommendation.
B. Court-ordered collections
When your debtor does not respond to the demands for payment and does not pay, your claim can be collected by court order and your Belgian debtor is then served with a summons.
In Belgium it is possible (as in some cases in the Netherlands) to institute a European execution order procedure (EEB procedure). This can yield a judgment order that can be executed.
Action on the merits
Belgium’s action on the merits is comparable to that in the Netherlands. The sole difference is that the court in Belgium has no option to order personal appearance by the parties. The court sets a filing schedule. Both parties can then respond to each other in writing. In practice, often no defense is raised and judgment in default of appearance is rendered. Should the debtor dispute the case it will be litigated at the hourly rate. The clerk’s fee is relatively low compared to that in the Netherlands. Costs are related to the Belgian judge’s absolute competence and not to the sum’s amount.
An attachment without a judgment order against the debtor is possible in Belgium, just as in the Netherlands, but this is not often carried out. That is because the costs for this procedure can mount up considerably. And one does always obtain the leave desired. Prejudgment attachment is imposed in Belgium particularly when a large claim is at stake and there is a possibility that the debtor can misappropriate the assets.
Petition for bankruptcy
In the Netherlands bankruptcy can be declared without judgment being pronounced. This is not the case in Belgium. Bankruptcy proceedings are possible there only after an enforceable judgment is obtained (such as a judgment or an order). Once a judgment order is rendered against the debtor in an action on the merits and all possibilities of execution have been exhausted, a petition for bankruptcy does become possible. It costs €250.00.
4. Extra: Interest and extrajudicial costs
In Belgium the parties agree on a contractual rate of interest in an agreement or in the general conditions. The debtor then owes this rate of interest. When the general conditions do not apply, one can fall back on the statutory rate of commercial interest. Under Belgian legislation, commercial interest is 8 % per year for the first semester of 2012. (Act of 2002 on combating payment arrears in commercial transaction). The general conditions do not apply to an agreement between a private party and a merchant/dealer but an interest rate of 4.5 % is allowable as from January 1, 2012.
Any extrajudicial costs of collection are charged to the debtor in Belgium. Under the Act of August 2002 (on combating payment arrears in commercial transaction) a debtor owes a lump sum penalty of 10% on any unpaid claim that follows from a commercial contract between the parties. This law produces results because Belgian case law does not recognize the application of Dutch general conditions against Belgian merchant/dealers.
5. Advice about debt collection in Belgium
Would you like more information about collections or bringing legal action in Belgium? Email email@example.com or telephone +31 413 31 17 77
This website is about sharing knowledge. But if you have a claim to recover, you can go to the website of Bierens Debt Recovery Lawyers. For claims submitted by 4pm, a demand letter is sent the same day.