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Debt collection in the Netherlands

Debt collection in the Netherlands

Debt collection in the Netherlands
By: Remko Roosjen | Dutch debt collection attorney
+31 (0)20 – 210 31 38

When you are not paid for an invoice, you may decide to hand the matter over for debt collection to a specialized debt collection lawyer in Holland. Debt collection in the Netherlands is seen as an activity to pursue payment. Depending on the phase you are in, a Dutch debt collection attorney will advise you on the steps to take. A collection lawyer usually works together with a Dutch bailiff. Bailiffs have an important position in the Netherlands and are the parties in charge of serving a judgment (for example), and further enforcement measures, such as levying precautionary, or foreclosure attachments on, for example, bank accounts, shares or real estate of the debtor.

Our Dutch debt collection lawyers specialize in the field of Dutch debt collection and are authorized to act before civil courts throughout the Netherlands. If the case is urgent, our Dutch lawyers can initiate what is known as debt collection summary proceedings in the Netherlands, which can be used to obtain an urgent court decision in summary proceedings. Dutch debt collection lawyers, bailiffs, and other parties work either on an hourly rate or for a pre-agreed amount. Our Dutch litigation lawyers can advise you on this, and point out the costs for various legal actions.

Dutch debt collection law specialist

MAAK Advocaten has a team of Dutch debt collection lawyers who are specialized in the drafting, negotiating and terminating of commercial agreements governed by Dutch law. Our lawyers in Amsterdam will be happy to assist you with any commercial contract matters in the Netherlands. Please do not hesitate to contact us.

OUR DUTCH debt recovery LAWYERS

Remko Roosjen | Partner & Dutch debt collection lawyer

Sander van Someren Gréve | Associate & Dutch debt recovery lawyer

Max Schwillens | Associate & Dutch debt collection lawyer

Jacco Bruinsma | Associate & Dutch litigation lawyer

New debt collection legislation as of 1 April 2024

1 April is the implementation date of the entry into force of the Quality of Collection Services Act (in Dutch: “Wet Kwaliteit incassodienstverlening“)(Wki). This law has been delayed four times, but is now new and published. The Debt Collection Services Quality Act aims to improve the quality of Dutch debt collection services in the Netherlands and help reduce debt problems in the Netherlands. The Dutch Debt Collection Services Quality Act requires debt collection service providers to register. This is only possible if they meet certain reliability and quality requirements (e.g. a VOG). If this registration is missing, debt collection service providers are no longer allowed to perform extrajudicial debt collection activities. Our law firm in Amsterdam for debt collection is monitoring these regulations and will have the quality requirements required under the Debt Collection Services Quality Act. The Justice and Security Inspectorate (the Inspectorate) will become the primary regulator of the debt collection market from 1 April next. It can be enforced when debt collection agencies fail to comply with the rules; for example, it can impose fines.

What should you do if a Dutch debtor does not pay?

In the Netherlands, the standard payment term for invoices issued to companies is 30 days (see: Article 6:119a Dutch Civil Code). However, businesses can mutually agree upon a shorter or longer payment term through a specific contract or general terms and conditions, with the caveat that it should not exceed 60 days. Dutch public authorities are required to settle invoices within 30 days of receipt. There is no statutory payment term for invoices to consumers in Dutch law, allowing you to set your term, which must be reasonable. 14 days is generally considered reasonable in the Netherlands.

If the debtor fails to pay when given a reasonable opportunity to do so, he is in default *in Dutch: “verzuim“):

Article 6:81 Default
The debtor is in default during the time that the performance is not carried out in conformity with the obligation after it has become due and demandable, provided that the requirements of Article 6:82 and 6:83 are met, except as far as the delay cannot be attributed to him or it has become permanently impossible to perform the obligation.

An invoice may already contain a time limit, but it is usually a good idea to send a reminder. At this point, various legal steps can be taken, such as initiating civil proceedings in the Dutch courts or obtaining an attachment order to protect the debtor’s position. Your Dutch litigation solicitor will be happy to advise you on your options.

Identify and Contact Your Debtor in the Netherlands

Depending on your relationship with the debtor, it’s often wise to first make a phone call to your Dutch debtor if you’re concerned about an invoice payment. More aggressive steps initially might unnecessarily strain the commercial relationship. If the debtor is a Dutch company (not a consumer), it’s best to contact someone authorized to represent the company. You can find out who this is in the trade register maintained by the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (in Dutch: “Kamer van Koophandel“). During the call, inquire if:

      • the delivery was satisfactory,

      • the invoice was received, and

      • they consider the invoice to be entirely correct

    .This personal approach to debt collection allows you to understand the reasons behind the non-payment. Try to get a clear commitment from the debtor on a payment date. If this isn’t successful, take it as a cause for concern. Consider making detailed notes of these phone conversations. Under Dutch law, recording your own phone calls without the other party’s prior permission isn’t always lawful. However, if you wish to use a transcript of the recording (or the audio itself) as evidence in legal proceedings later on, civil courts are likely to permit it.

    Drafting and Sending a Dutch Demand Letter: a template

    Drafting and sending a demand letter in the Dutch debt collection process is a crucial initial step. This letter serves as a formal request for payment, outlining the outstanding debt, the original agreement terms, and a specified deadline for payment. In the Netherlands, the letter must be clear, concise, and legally compliant, often including a detailed breakdown of the debt and any accrued interest or fees. It should also inform the debtor of potential legal actions if the debt remains unpaid. The tone of the letter is usually firm yet respectful, maintaining a professional approach. Sending this demand letter not only fulfills a legal requirement but also provides the debtor with a fair opportunity to settle the debt amicably before any further legal steps are taken.

    Creditors typically start with a payment reminder or Dutch demand letter. If unpaid, they can hire a debt collection law firm or a Dutch lawyer, adhering to strict regulations against harassment. In case of non-resolution, legal action, including Dutch court judgments or liens, may be taken. Awareness of rights and obligations is essential for a smooth debt resolution.

    Please find enclosed an example of a Dutch demand letter:

    Initiating the Dutch Debt Collection Process

    One of MAAK’s practice areas is debt collection in the Netherlands. You may be confronted by different customs and trading traditions when doing business with a Dutch partner. Due to differences in legislation in the Netherlands and language and cultural barriers, debt collection in the Netherlands can be more difficult for you than expected. Our litigation attorneys in the Netherlands explain the key issues.

    Initiating the debt collection process in the Netherlands is a structured procedure aimed at recovering unpaid debts. The process typically begins with sending a written reminder to the debtor, outlining the debt, and requesting payment. If this initial step fails, the creditor may proceed to engage a debt collection agency or a lawyer specializing in debt collection. These professionals can employ various strategies, from sending formal demand letters to initiating legal action. Dutch law stipulates specific regulations and limits regarding debt collection practices, emphasizing the importance of respecting the debtor’s rights while seeking payment. Creditors must understand these legal frameworks to ensure an effective and compliant collection process.

    Investigation and Credit Assessment for Dutch Debt Collection

    In Dutch debt collection, investigation and credit assessment are critical steps. Initially, creditors conduct a thorough investigation to understand the debtor’s financial situation. This includes assessing the debtor’s credit history, current financial status, and ability to pay. The credit assessment helps in determining the most effective collection strategy, tailored to the debtor’s specific circumstances. By carefully evaluating the debtor’s financial health, creditors can make informed decisions, such as whether to proceed with legal action or negotiate payment terms. This approach not only increases the likelihood of successful debt recovery but also ensures that the collection process remains fair and respectful of the debtor’s situation.

    Collaborative Approach and Case Tracking for collecting a debt

    In the Netherlands, a collaborative approach and case tracking are integral parts of the Dutch debt collection process. This approach emphasizes cooperation between the creditor, debt collection agency, and debtor, aiming to find a mutually beneficial solution. Effective communication and negotiation play key roles, with all parties encouraged to openly discuss payment options and potential difficulties. Meanwhile, case tracking is employed to meticulously monitor the progress of each Dutch debt collection case. This involves updating records, tracking communications and payments, and ensuring compliance with legal guidelines. By combining collaboration with diligent case tracking, the Dutch debt collection system strives to achieve efficient resolutions while maintaining fairness and respect for all involved parties.

    The Role of Bailiffs and Lawyers in the Netherlands

    In Dutch debt collection, bailiffs and lawyers play pivotal roles. Bailiffs, known as ‘deurwaarders’ in the Netherlands, are judicial officers authorized to execute court orders, including the seizure of assets and property to recover debts. They act as intermediaries, ensuring that the debtor complies with the court’s decision while respecting legal protocols and debtor’s rights. Lawyers, on the other hand, provide legal expertise and representation. They are instrumental in drafting legally sound demand letters, negotiating repayment plans, and representing creditors in court if necessary. Their involvement is crucial for navigating complex legal proceedings and ensuring that the creditor’s actions are compliant with Dutch law. Together, bailiffs and lawyers ensure that the debt collection process is conducted effectively, legally, and ethically.

    Dutch Debt Collection Laws

    Dutch debt collection laws establish a framework that balances the interests of creditors and debtors, ensuring fair and ethical debt recovery practices. These laws dictate specific procedures for debt collection, starting from sending a formal demand letter to the debtor, outlining the debt, and a reasonable period for repayment. If this fails, creditors may proceed with legal action but must adhere to regulations that prohibit practices like harassment or unreasonable pressure. The laws also define the roles and limitations of debt collection agencies and bailiffs, ensuring they operate within legal boundaries. In court proceedings, Dutch law provides clear guidelines on how judgments are to be executed. Importantly, these laws offer protections to debtors, including rights to dispute the debt and provisions to prevent excessive financial burden. This legal framework is designed to ensure that debt collection in the Netherlands is conducted respectfully, responsibly, and under the principles of justice.

    Bankruptcy Petition in the Netherlands as a Debt Collection Strategy

    In the Netherlands, filing a Dutch bankruptcy petition can be a strategic move in the debt collection process, particularly in cases of substantial unpaid debts. This strategy is often considered when other collection efforts, like demand letters and negotiations, have failed. By filing a bankruptcy petition against a debtor, creditors can initiate a legal process that may result in the debtor’s assets being liquidated under court supervision to pay off the debt. This action is not taken lightly, as bankruptcy can have significant and lasting effects on the debtor’s financial status and creditworthiness. It’s typically seen as a last resort, used when creditors believe there is no feasible alternative for debt recovery. Employing this strategy requires careful legal consideration and adherence to Dutch bankruptcy laws, ensuring that the creditor’s rights are protected while also respecting the legal process and the debtor’s situation.

    Summary Proceedings vs. ordinary proceedings

    Our Dutch lawyers can initiate Dutch civil summary proceedings (in Dutch: “incassokortgeding”) to recover your unpaid invoice in the Netherlands, regardless of whether there are disputed or undisputed claims. The debtor is then sued. The court may then order the debtor pay the claim. These proceedings allow for evidence to be presented in many different ways. Please be advised that there’s a difference between the summary proceedings and proceedings on the merits in the Netherlands (in Dutch: “bodemprocedure”). Generally, the judge will usually try to reach an agreement between the parties in most cases. It also needs to be noted that this is usually a long process with simple civil procedures in the Netherlands taking anywhere from six to twelve months to complete. Complex cases may take up to two years and an appeal can then be filed by the debtor which may extend the case further.

    Pre-judgment attachment in Holland

    In the Netherlands, it has been quite easy for a creditor to attach the assets of his debtor even before a court has determined that there is a (due-and payable) claim. This is known as the pre-judgment Arrest of Assets in the Netherlands. Once the court grants the claim, the creditor may recover his claim from the attached asset.

    Our Debt Recovery Process: A Meld of Expertise and Strategy

    When you trust your claims to MAAK Advocaten, you’re essentially choosing the finest Holland collection attorney services for debt recovery and investigation in Holland. Our structured approach combines legal knowledge with Dutch financial claim attorney expertise:

        1. Summons Issuance: This initial notification, backed by Dutch payment default legal help, grants the debtor one final chance to clear outstanding amounts.

        1. Accurate Interest and Cost Calculations: Relying on Netherlands commercial debt attorney expertise, we ascertain the exact interest and other costs due.

        1. Multiple Recovery Routes: If debts persist, our Dutch overdue payment solicitor guidance ensures you have a gamut of legal options at your disposal.

      Debt collection attorney in the Netherlands

      Do you need a debt collection lawyer in Holland? Our team of debt collection attorneys in the Netherlands would be happy to be of assistance. Our team of specialized debt collection attorneys in the Netherlands has the experience that you require. We provide fast solutions and a pragmatic approach. We are responsive and dedicated to being successful for you or your company. A debt collection attorney in the Netherlands will first investigate if the debtor in the Netherlands still exists or has enough assets for execution purposes. Our team of attorneys for debt collection in the Netherlands can furthermore offer the following services:

          • form general terms and conditions

          • service agreements and business contracts

          • support and legal advice on Dutch law

          • assistance in the pre-legal phase with a letter of demand, pre-judgment attachments, petition for bankruptcy, legal proceedings in the Netherlands, including summary proceedings, interim relief proceedings, and civil court proceedings

        How long does debt last in Netherlands?

        The Netherlands has a limitation period 5 year for payment claims. This applies to all invoices that are due and payable. A summons is a demand for performance in the Netherlands. A bailiff can collect payment from a debtor if the debtor fails to pay the bill within the specified timeframe. Next, the process regarding debt collection in the Netherlands will be completed by filing a complaint against debtor. The Dutch law allows a debtor the right to sue for nonpayment.

        Debt collection in the Netherlands

        Summons to payment by a Dutch attorney

        Under Dutch law, it is often necessary to send a proper summons to payment to the debtor. Also known as a notification in default. The summons gives the debtor one more chance to pay the invoice. If you have already sent a proper reminder for payment, collection costs and interest in Holland can be claimed immediately. The exact amount of statutory interest or statutory commercial interest due to you and your customer and any extrajudicial collection costs owed, will depend on the agreements in place. If you have not yet sent a proper reminder for payment, note that debt collection in the Netherlands often starts with a reminder followed by the summons to payment.

        Get in Touch with Our Dutch debt collection law firm

        Acreditor cannot force a debtor to pay without a judgment. In the Netherlands, a court bailiff is required to seize and sell the debtor’s assets, but only after a legal judgment has been obtained. This requires the creditor to first initiate legal proceedings against the debtor. 

        If you need further legal support for collecting a debt in Holland,  please don’t hesitate to reach out to our knowledgeable and dedicated team at our Dutch debt collection law firm in the Netherlands (Amsterdam).  Our Dutch lawyers are committed to providing exceptional legal services and personalized attention to address your unique needs. You can contact us through our website, via email, or by phone. Our friendly and professional staff will be more than happy to assist you and schedule a consultation with one of our expert attorneys in the Netherlands, for example a Dutch litigation attorney or contract lawyer in the Netherlands in Amsterdam. We look forward to the opportunity to help you navigate the complexities of the legal landscape and achieve the best possible outcomes for your case.

        Contact person: Remko Roosjen | Dutch debt collection attorney-at-law
        Office number: +31 (0)20 – 210 31 38

        The content provided on this legal blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a substitute for professional legal counsel. While we strive to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of the information presented, we cannot guarantee its completeness or applicability to your specific circumstances. We encourage you to consult with a qualified attorney for advice regarding your individual legal matters. The content on this blog may be subject to changes or updates without notice, and we disclaim any responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided.


        Remko Roosjen

        Remko Roosjen

        Remko Roosjen is a debt collection attorney in the Netherlands and creates close working relationships with clients, providing pragmatic solutions across on all legal matters in the Netherlands. Remko is a partner of our Dutch Debt Collection office in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. His specialist areas include Debt Recovery, Commercial Disputes & Contracts, including civil litigation, arbitration and mediation. Remko is a sharp, creative attorney with extensive experience representing both plaintiffs and defendants. Visit Remko's profile via the website or via his LinkedIn Profile.