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Legal action against client in Germany
Thread poster: Hazel Underwood

Hazel Underwood  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:37
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Oct 8, 2015

Having tried lots of other methods of obtaining due payment from a client, I need to resort to legal action but am not sure where to start.

I've looked into EU non-payments proceedings you can take - Does anyone have any experience of these? Do they actually work?

Or would I be better trying to find a solicitor in Germany who can help me make my case?

All advice welcome!

Thanks,

Hazel


 

Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:37
English to Japanese
+ ...
I know one debt collection agency in Germany Oct 8, 2015

If you would send me a personal mail via Proz, I will be glad to give you the agency's name.

 

Paul Skidmore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:37
German to English
European payment order or European small claims procedure? Oct 8, 2015

Hi Hazel,

I am not sure what you have already tried, but the procedures mentioned in this link from the UK government may be helpful. A solicitor in Germany is not likely to be cheap.

https://www.gov.uk/recover-debt-from-elsewhere-in-european-union

Paul


 

Jacqueline White
Austria
Local time: 23:37
Hungarian to English
+ ...
Depends on amount in question Oct 8, 2015

You could try the small claims procedure https://www.online-mahnantrag.de/omahn/Mahnantrag?_ts=9012458-1444316128322&Command=start

If you do use a solicitor, the debtor has to pay the costs theoretically (though actually enforcing it may not be that easy). If you are lucky, a letter may be sufficient, though that is also not cheap in my experience.

There's plenty of information available online about debt collection in Germany.


 

Jocelyne Cuenin  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:37
Member (2012)
German to French
+ ...
2 steps Oct 8, 2015

1) Perhaps you should try and write a nasty letter in German, saying this is the last time before you contact the Amtsgericht Wedding, which is the Europäisches Mahngericht Deutschland,
and there "einen Antrag auf Erlass eines Europäischen Zahlungsbefehls gem. Verordnung (EG) Nr. 1896/2006 (EuMahnVO) erstellen"
(It does not seem to be terribly expensive or complicated, but you'd have to fill in the form in German)

This would be a standard one and might work as a wake-up call (and it would be nice if German colleagues could go through it here) :

Letzte Mahnung
Rechnung Nr. ... vom ...

Sehr geehrte Frau ...,
Sehr geehrter Herr...,


trotz unserer schriftlichen Erinnerungen vom ... und vom ... konnten wir bis zum heutigen Tag keinen Zahlungseingang feststellen.

Zur Zahlung offen sind folgende Beträge:
Rechnungsbetrag: ... Euro


Wir bitten Sie daher letztmalig, den fälligen Betrag bis zum ... auf unser Konto einzuzahlen.
Sollte auch dieser Termin ohne Geldeingang auf unserem Konto verstreichen, sehen wir uns gezwungen, ohne erneute Aufforderung gerichtliche Schritte einzuleiten, und zwar einen Antrag auf Erlass eines Europäischen Zahlungsbefehls gem. Verordnung (EG) Nr. 1896/2006 (EuMahnVO) zu erstellen.

Beachten Sie bitte, dass dadurch für Sie erhöhte Kosten entstehen würden.

Hat sich diese Mahnung mit Ihrer Zahlung überschnitten, bitten wir Sie, dieses Schreiben als gegenstandslos zu betrachten.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen



Rechnung Nr. = invoice number
vom -> date of the invoice
Rechnungsbetrag => outstanding
vom... und vom... -> Date of the latest reminders
bis zum -> Date by which their payment must be on your bank account


2) If that letter does not work, formular towards legal steps can be downloaded here :
http://www.mahnverfahren-eu.de/lip/form/display.do?$context=BB5F245B60B647E66BBD

http://www.berlin.de/sen/justiz/gerichte/ag/wedd/eumav.de.html
is the main site of the Amtsgericht which is responsible in Germany for quick European 'recoveries'.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:37
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
There's an interim step Oct 8, 2015

Hazel Underwood wrote:
I've looked into EU non-payments proceedings you can take - Does anyone have any experience of these? Do they actually work?

I imagine you're suggesting getting a European Payment Order? I haven't actually followed through with one, but I did use the very similar process in France (not cross-border) very successfully. That worked even though the client failed to pay the first injunction. I bit the bullet and paid for an additional one (much stronger as he was now officially in contempt of court) which was served by a bailiff along with the police. I not only got my invoices paid but also all my costs paid plus interest. And the client had to pay the bailiff a whole lot more than he owed me as he had to pay all the costs of the court process, the judge, two bailiff visits, the police...icon_smile.gif.

But I did once go through the process of completing an EU Payment Order. It was reasonably easy and was done online. Although I was living in Spain and my client was in France, I was able to prepare everything in English, which made me a little more confident. When everything was prepared I was given the opportunity to save it as a PDF. At that stage, I gave my client one last chance to pay: I sent a final email, attaching the PDF, and saying I'd submit it on DD/MM/YYYY. Payment was received virtually by returnicon_smile.gif. He clearly saw that he wasn't going to get away with non-payment and he knew that the next stage would cost him a lot more than the invoice total.

On the one hand, it can be difficult to actually enforce the payment order if the client doesn't honour it. You're far away and having to fork out for bailiffs etc. Your (ex-)client is in contempt of court, which can be a very dangerous position, but if s/he is crooked enough (or perhaps desperate enough) then s/he might take the risk. Still, as they say, 'nothing ventured, nothing gained', and it costs very little.

On the other hand, any client who isn't an out-and-out criminal will recognise the trouble that's brewing. You'll have made it very clear that you mean business and are prepared to go the whole way. Few will want to take the risk of being in contempt of court. Even if they have cash-flow problems, your invoice will now come to the top of the pile. That's what you have to hope for, anyway.


 

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:37
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
A German client owes me €65 Oct 8, 2015

But up until now I haven't done anything about it because I'm sure it'll cost me a lot more than €65 to get the money.

 

Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 23:37
German to Swedish
+ ...
And Oct 9, 2015

Helena Chavarria wrote:

But up until now I haven't done anything about it because I'm sure it'll cost me a lot more than €65 to get the money.


You're "sure", so of course you've researched the details.


 

Lieselotte Kleinhans  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:37
Member (2010)
English to German
Follow the advice given Oct 9, 2015

I would suggest you follow Petitavoine's recommendation and send them a letter. Actually, I think the letter she provided as a sample should work well after you have filled in your data. If that does not work, you could proceed as Petitavoine, Jacqueline and Paul suggested. A solicitor in Germany would be my last choice as they are quite expensive.

It is always annoying if you are not paid for work you delivered, but also consider the amount of time you put into this whole procedure.

If you would like me to help you with any German letter, do not hesitate to contact me.


 

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:37
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I was too annoyed to take further steps Oct 9, 2015

Lieselotte Kleinhans wrote:

It is always annoying if you are not paid for work you delivered, but also consider the amount of time you put into this whole procedure.


And, Joakim, I agree that I seem a bit flippant but I was (and still am) so annoyed that I thought the best thing to do was to try and forget about the whole issue. However, all the emails I exchanged with the person, PO included, are still in my inbox, so I haven't completely forgotten about it.

I didn't know about EU Payment Orders, so I'll try and do something about getting paid. But I don't want to spend €100 to recover €65!


 

Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
Costs of a Mahnantrag Oct 9, 2015

A Mahnantrag for your outstanding amount costs 32,00 Euro (which is the minimum). See here:
http://www.mahngerichte.de/scripts/gebuehr2013.php?Streitwert=65,00&Streitwert2=&anzahl=&Streitwertvb=&Abschicken=Abschicken

If your customer is not going through payment problems like bankrupcy etc. which of course must be made sure beforehand, you have good probabilities to recover the entire sum plus the legal interests.

I think I would do it if I were in your shoes, just out of principle. Maybe one day you have an hour or so to spend for filling in the form, and it could be well invested:-) But I understand your concerns, too, of course.

Anyway, if you are worried just for the cost, I can reassure you, it's surely not 100 Euro.

If you need help for filling in the form, which unfortunately is available only in German, feel free to contact me.


 

Jacqueline White
Austria
Local time: 23:37
Hungarian to English
+ ...
If the debtor raises an objection to the payment order ... Oct 9, 2015

If the debtor raises an objection to the payment order, you can only collect the debt and the fee for the procedure by going to court, which to my mind would be too much hassle for the amount of EUR 65 (so if you decide not to pursue it at that stage you've lost the EUR 32 as well).

I agree, though, that I would want to take action to collect the debt as a matter of principle.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:37
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
On what grounds? Oct 9, 2015

Jacqueline White wrote:
If the debtor raises an objection to the payment order, you can only collect the debt and the fee for the procedure by going to court

The only possible grounds would be if there were some complaint with the work - if the client were to claim that it was not fit for purpose. However, that should have been raised well before the time that you'll be taking out a court injunction. A client really has no right to claim this at such a late stage, out of the blue, especially an agency who has no doubt invoiced their own client AND been paid. The right to be paid for your labour is one of the most fundamental in the book, and recognised the world over.

I hasten to add that I'm no lawyer, but this is what I was told by the bailiffs I hired to collect my debt. I was worried about paying a second amount when the client didn't pay up, but I was reassured by the bailiff that the client WOULD pay when faced with being in contempt of court, correctly as it happened.


 

Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
I agree with Sheila Oct 9, 2015

Sheila Wilson wrote:

The only possible grounds would be if there were some complaint with the work - if the client were to claim that it was not fit for purpose. However, that should have been raised well before the time that you'll be taking out a court injunction. A client really has no right to claim this at such a late stage, out of the blue, especially an agency who has no doubt invoiced their own client AND been paid. The right to be paid for your labour is one of the most fundamental in the book, and recognised the world over.



The debtor will think twice before raising an objection if he has no grounds to do so.
Because he knows that if he is taken to court, in that case it will cost him possibly much more than the due amount.
I have applied once for a Mahnantrag for my own, and encouraged once a friend of mine to do so helping her to fill in the form. We were both paid immediately, with complete refund of our fees and interests. I can't say the results are always 100% successful, but this is my experience.

[Bearbeitet am 2015-10-09 21:16 GMT]


 

Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
Oct 9, 2015



[Bearbeitet am 2015-10-09 22:07 GMT]


 
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