Debt collection in the Netherlands
When companies are confronted with slow and non-paying customers, bringing in a debt collection agency can be very effective. But what if the debt collection agency does not do her job well and still charges the full commission rate even when no outstanding money is collected? In a recent case the Court of Amsterdam ruled that under certain circumstances some of the fees imposed in the standard terms of contract, are unreasonable and therefore not entitled. Dutch lawyer Marco Guit explains.
Debt collection for outstanding debt in the Netherlands
Mr X. holds a small business and brought in the services of Juresta, a large debt collection agency, to collect outstanding money from one of Mr. X’s German customers. For these services Juresta charges a percentage over the collected money as well as some fixed fees. General Terms and Conditions apply and the (commonly used) provision about cancellation of the collection order by a client is particularly relevant for this case. The provision states that in the event a client cancels an existing collection order (i.e. before the full outstanding money is collected), Juresta is nevertheless entitled to the full collection commission based on the total outstanding money.
Debt collection proceedings and chance of recovery
Mr. X is not satisfied about the services rendered by Juresta. The debtor is not responding adequately and Juresta -not qualified to litigate in this case- has to call in a German lawyer to start proceedings. The communication between Juresta and the lawyer and Juresta and Mr. X is running far from smoothly and time passes without legal proceedings being initiated. At one point there is still no sight on collection of the outstanding money while the debtor sold his business and vanished.
Using general terms in the Netherlands
Mr. X decides to terminate the services of Juresta. Juresta accepts the cancellation but bills Mr. X with the full commission over the outstanding money, i.e. € 3.800, referring to the relevant provision in the Terms and Conditions. Mr. X refuses to pay and is subsequently served by Juresta to appear in these civil proceedings.
Terms and conditions for debt collection order
The Court decides that although the General Terms and Conditions apply to the contract between the parties, it is unreasonable to charge Mr. X the full amount of the collection commission while no money is collected. Even if Mr. X did not prematurely terminate the collection order, it is highly unlikely that Juresta would ever succeed to fully collect the outstanding money, according to the Court. Juresta would never be entitled to bill the full commission anyway. The Court also takes into account the fact that the cancellation by Mr. X is mainly caused by the lack of decisive and quick action of Juresta. The Court moderates the claim of Juresta and awards a partial commission.
Dutch law firm AMS: successful debt collection in the Netherlands depends on swift and adequate action
If your company is confronted with a claim for unsuccessful debt collection services, we can advise you and see if these costs are reasonable. This case opens the door to mitigation of those imposed fees. Professional debt collection however can save a company a lot of money provided that the debt collector is decisive and able to act quickly. The debt collection lawyers of AMS have years of experience and offer sharp collection fees. Because we are a boutique law firm, all clients get the attention they deserve: good and prompt communication and assistance from one firm during the whole debt collection process. That way you are insured of the best outcome.