Debt recovery the Netherlands

The Netherlands: a small country that plays a major role in the world economy. Its largest trading partner is neighboring Germany. It also does a great deal of business with Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, and the United States. South America, Africa, and Asia are its key regions for the import and export of goods.

Despite these rich trade contacts, the world economic crisis has got its grip on the Dutch payments market. Despite clear improvement in the attitude toward payments since 2010, one third of all invoices in the Netherlands are paid late.

1. Demanding payment

It is usual in the Netherlands to first send several demands for payment and to collect out of court.

2. Assign claims

When your Dutch customer does not meet its payment obligations, and still will not pay even after several demands, you can transfer the matter to Bierens Collection Attorneys.

3. Handling collections in the Netherlands

A. Extrajudicial collections

Paying late or not at all: it is a frequent occurrence in the Netherlands. Payment frequently is made only after multiple reminders or demands have been sent. Extrajudicial collections are often the first resort when there are unpaid claims. Collections cases are handled by collections lawyers, process servers and court bailiffs, and by collections agencies. The most obvious partner for business-to-business claims are the collections lawyers because they can litigate beyond the  €25,000.00 limit. They can also petition a debtor’s bankruptcy. Petitioning for bankruptcy is a collections tool much used in the Netherlands.

B. Court-ordered collections

Interim relief proceedings

When the creditor itself falls into several financial problems, it can initiate interim relief proceedings in a collections case. The court’s interim relief proceedings judge is asked to provide injunctive relief. When both parties comply with the court’s judgment, which generally is the case, there need be no action on the merits.

Action on the merits

In addition to a bankruptcy petition, the debtor can also be served a summons. The debtor gets six weeks to respond to the summons. This term can be extended by another six weeks. Oral arguments will then be held three to four months later – although in practice this is often six, seven, or even eight months later. A summons is generally allowed only for disputed claims. When both parties cannot reach agreement during oral arguments litigation will proceed further. Witness may be called and heard. These proceedings can take between twelve and eighteen months. The amount of time involved and the fact that Dutch lawyers may not work on contingency, such as on the basis of ‘No Win, No Fee’, an action on the merits will quickly incur legal fees of from € 2,000 to € 5,000.


It is possible to impose an attachment without a judgment order against the debtor in the Netherlands. Once attachment, or prejudgment seizure, is imposed, an action on the merits must be instituted within thirty days. After judgment, the creditor can recover from the attached assets. These attachments expire once the debtor is declared bankrupt. Practically speaking, attachment makes sense in only a few cases.

When the debtor does not comply with the judgment order, petitioning for bankruptcy takes precedence over having a bailiff enforce the order.

Petition for bankruptcy

Petitioning for bankruptcy is quick, inexpensive, and effective. It can be petitioned without judgment being executed against the debtor. The debtor generally then feels compelled to pay, after which the bankruptcy petition can be withdrawn. The costs for this process (€1,275.00) are recovered from the debtor in most cases. These costs are considerably less than those for an action on the merits.

4. Extra: Interest and extrajudicial costs of collection

In the Netherlands 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. The commercial interest rate follows the European base interest rate of 8%. The extrajudicial costs of collection are also charged to the debtor in the Netherlands. This uses a declining balance scale. Only a few collections lawyers are prepared to assume these costs and then recover them from a debtor. Bierens is one organization that does provide this service.

5. Advice about debt collection in the Netherlands

For more information about collections or bringing legal action in email or call our office at +31 413 31 17 77.

See also: Debt Collection in the Netherlands on the website of Bierens Debt Recovery Lawyers.

Transfer claim

This website is about sharing knowledge. But if you have a claim to recover, you can you can go to the website of Bierens Debt Recovery Lawyers. For claims submitted by 4pm, a demand letter is sent the same day.

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