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Debt Collection in Germany

Germany is one of the most developed countries in the world with an economy based on manufacturing and foreign trade, considered the largest national economy in Europe, the fourth in the world by nominal GDP and the fifth largest in the world by purchasing power parity, but the effects of the eurozone debt crisis created the context for unpaid debts and debt collection procedures.

Those who need help in debt collection in Germany can rely on our lawyers who can offer assistance during the pre-trial stage and the trial of a debt recovery case.

 Quick Facts  
  Applicable law

Civil Code

Other specific regulations that apply (YES/NO)

 

YES, EU regulations

Types of debts that can be chased in Germany

 Debts arising from commercial agreements, unpaid bills and installments from credits, company debts, bank loans, etc.
Availability of out-of-court procedures (YES/NO) 

YES, amicable debt collection procedures can be completed in Germany

Court proceedings available (YES/NO) YES, a creditor can address the court in order to recover a debt in Germany
Types of debt collection procedures in court

Small claims procedures, litigation

Court in charge of debt collection procedures

Local courts will rule over debts below EUR 5,000, district courts will handle debts above EUR 5,000  

Existence of minimum claim for court proceedings (YES/NO)  NO,there is no minimum amount imposed
to collect a debt
Duration of amicable debt recovery process in Germany (approx.) The duration of amicable debt recovery process can vary on the willingness of the debtor to repay the outstanding amount
Duration of debt recovery through court application (approx.) Court proceedings can take more than 5 months, if appeals are filed by the defendant
Recognition of foreign court order related to debt collection (YES/NO) YES, but only based on reciprocity. The country from which the order is sent must also recognize orders issued in Germany
Possibility to use the services of debt collection agencies/lawyers (YES/NO) YES, claimants can use the services of debt collection agencies and law firms in Germany 
Availability of debtor protection measures (YES/NO) YES, oppositions, complaints and third-party claims are some of them
Debt collection services available (YES/NO) YES, our debt collection lawyers in Germany offer support in debt recovery cases 
Available debt collection services Amicable and court debt collection support is available with our law firm 

Legislation on debt collection in Germany

When a debtor becomes incapable of paying debts, the German Civil Code provides that the creditor has the right to address to the competent authority. Depending on the amount of the claim, there are two Courts which may take the case in charge: for claims up to 5000 euro the case goes to the Local Court (Amtsgericht) and for claims higher than 5000 euro, the District Court (Landgericht) is the competent authority, with some exceptions provided by the Law, for example the Local Court is always competent to judge any disputes between landlords and residential tenants.

In the debt collection procedure in Germany, the first extra-judicial attempt to recover debts is the amicable procedure, in which the creditor notifies the debtor about the unpaid debts, the deadline to fulfill the payment and the consequences for not obeying to the claim in the specified time and situation.

Our debt collection lawyers in Germany can offer detailed information on the legislation related to the procedure of recovering outstanding amounts of money from natural persons and commercial entities. In case you need debt recovery services in Poland, our partners are ready to assist you – DebtCollectionPoland.eu.

Debt collection stages in Germany

The debt collection procedure in Germany implies respecting several steps. These steps can vary based on the debtor and his or her willingness to cooperate and refer to:

  1. the creditor can start the first stage of the debt collection procedure by asking the debtor to pay;
  2. if unsuccessful, the creditor can request the help of a debt collection agency or law firm in Germany;
  3. the agency or law firm will first notify the debtor about the amount to be paid and ask him to reach a payment agreement;
  4. the agency or Germany lawyers will send the debtor all the documents which attest to the debt;
  5. in case the debtor does not reply, the creditor can ask the law firm or agency to file a petition with a German court, case in which the court debt recovery proceedings will begin;
  6. the German court will hear both parties and rule on whether the debt can be collected or not;
  7. if successful, the debt collection court order will be enforced, and the outstanding amount of money will be recovered.

As seen above, the debt collection procedure in Germany can be completed by an agency or a law firm. With a vast knowledge in debt recovery matters, our lawyers can guide those who need help in recovering the money they are owed.

The amicable debt collection procedure in Germany

An amicable debt collection is the simplest way of recovering money from a bad payer and implies the creditor to reach an agreement with the debtor and the debt to be rapid in one or more installments. In the case of companies seeking to recover debts, various legal mechanisms can be enforced, however, in the case of natural persons, it depends on the debtor to be willing to pay. No matter the case, the amicable debt collection in Germany can be completed by an agency or a law firm who can recover the money on behalf of the creditor.

The debt collection agency in Germany will still be required to send the debtor a notification and the proof of the unpaid amount of money and, at the same time, a proposal for the recovery of the amount of money owed. Based on the positive reply of the debtor, an agreement will be signed, and the debt collection procedure will be successfully closed.

Our debt collection lawyers in Germany can help those who need guidance in debt recovery cases, including in the amicable stage of the procedure.

Court debt collection in Germany

The first judicial step for debt collecting is by submitting a writ before the competent court in which to specify the amount of the debts, the claim and also the documents that indicate the debts.

The debtor is also informed by the court about the creditor’s proceeding and has the right to appeal against the writ, in writing, within four weeks, case in which the court schedules a court date for a personal hearing of the parties.

When the debtor does not respond to the court’s document of information or when he doesn’t come to the scheduled date for the judicial procedure in court, the claimant is awarded a judgment in the absence or default judgment (Versäumnisurteil).

In the personal hearing which takes place at the court, after the judge summarizes the case, he usually proposes the two parties to come to an agreement. In case the debtor and the creditor can not settle the issue in an amicable way, the court may hear and evaluate the witnesses’ and experts’ statements and render a judgment procedure which usually takes place after two to eight weeks after the trial. In that phase, the judge issues a decision about the case and both parties have the right to appeal against the decision within one month from the day the verdict has been delivered.

The fees charged for the action in court are presented in transparent rules and they depend on the amount of the claim. As a general ruling, the fees must be paid before the court procedure as long as the court will not forward the writ to the defendant when there is not presented the proof of payment. In Germany, the Law encourages the parties to come to an amicable settlement in the first personal hearing, by a rule that provides that two-thirds of the court fees are returned when the court does not have to write a verdict.

The Court’s final decision obliges the debtor to compel with the payment and to refund the debts to the creditor.

When the creditor does not act by this decision, the Civil Law provisions give the creditor’s the right to ask for another set of rulings in order to recover the debts. For example, the enforcement of the court decision and the seizure of assets are measures taken to force the payments.

The enforcement of the court’s decision in debt collection in Germany

Court debt collection proceedings will usually end when the judge issues the court order through which the recovery of the amount of money is disposed of. The order will be enforced by an officer appointed by the court. The bailiff, as this person is known in Germany, will have the right to identify the assets which can be seized in order for the debt to be settled. Then, the bailiff will proceed to the recovery of the debt.

As an EU member state, Germany also respects EU legislation, including in debt collection cases, meaning that court orders issued in other EU jurisdictions are recognized here through a simplified procedure. This is also available for German court orders which need to be recognized in other EU countries.

If you need help with the enforcement of an EU court decision, you can ask for the support of our debt collection lawyers in Germany.

Debt recovery in Germany in default cases

A judicial order for a default action is a civil court procedure to enforce monetary claims against a defaulting debtor, governed by Article 688 in the Civil Procedure Code. This order provides an alternative to the legal action procedure that does not require a detailed statement of claim, and, moreover, it is conducted without the need for evidence and oral proceedings.

The default action can be pursued where the creditor assumes that the debtor will not object. A default action promises to enforce a financial claim faster and more effectively than by bringing legal action. All that is needed is to fill in and submit an application form, which the creditor can also do online. Moreover, the costs are lower than those of legal action.

According to Article 694 in the Civil Code, however, the debtor may object in writing to the default summons. The objection time is 2 weeks beginning on the date the payment order is served, or one month if the payment order is served overseas. An enforcement order may not be issued if a timely objection is made. The order for default action is then converted to regular court proceedings at the request of one of the parties.

Debt collection in Germany can be handled by our local lawyers who are also at the disposal of foreign companies with business operations here, as well as at the service of other types of claimants.

Protection of debtors in Germany

Debtors have access to a variety of legal defenses against enforcement actions, among which:

  • opposing enforcement reminders;
  • opposing enforcement in court;
  • filing complaints and third-party claims.

Problems can arise during enforcement actions if the debtor is insolvent. In such cases, they are not permitted because it is more important to satisfy all creditors jointly. This is why creditors are encouraged to start enforcement proceedings right away if they think the debtor may be the subject of insolvency proceedings.

If you are planning to collect a debt in Germany and are worried about the legal actions a debtor may take, you direct to our lawyers who specialize in such cases. They will review your case and offer a suitable solution.

On the other hand, if you are a debtor who was wronged in the debt collection procedure, you can also seek the advice of our German lawyers.

Recognition and enforcement of foreign debt collection orders

Germany also hosts large numbers of foreign companies involved in cross-border operations, which is why debt recovery cases can turn out to be complex when it comes to legal actions. If a judgment for debt collection is rendered in a foreign country, it is wise to seek legal advice regarding the judgment’s enforceability.

The German Code of Civil Procedure, Section 328, is crucial in matters requiring the recognition and enforcement of judgments rendered by courts outside the European Union. The reciprocity of recognition is listed as one of the requirements in Section 328 of the Civil Code. Reciprocity means that it is unlikely that German judgments will be recognized in German courts if the other jurisdiction does not recognize them. Additionally, decisions must be made in a way that is consistent with German law’s fundamental rights.

For guidance in actions, you can take for the enforcement of a debt recovery order issued in a non-EU country, please address our law firm in Germany.

Debt collection lawyers in Germany

If you find yourself in the unpleasant position of being owed money, you can rely on our debt collection lawyers in Germany who can offer specialized assistance and advice in order for you to obtain a successful outcome.

You can rely on our lawyers in Germany in the following situations:

  • in amicable debt collection procedures during which we can contact the debtor on your behalf;
  • in preparing the documents which need to be served to the debtor during the amicable procedure;
  • in sending notifications and keeping in touch with the debtor and trying to reach an agreement for a simplified debt collection procedure;
  • in submitting the claim for court proceedings to start in case the debt cannot be recovered amicably;
  • support during the court debt collection proceedings and representation before the court.

Statistics on debts in Germany

According to data gathered in the past few years:

  • most debts incurred by German nationals came from credit cards, overdrafts, mortgages, personal and student loans;
  • in the first half of 2019, the debt value per person in Germany fluctuated; the median value was 30,800 USD;
  • the revenue of collection agencies is projected to reach 2.756 million USD by the end of 2025.

If you have any questions related to the debt collection procedures in Germany, please feel free to contact our lawyers who specialize in such matters.