Legal Collections

Court Order for Payment, Enforcement Order and Debt Enforcement – The Way Through the Legal Collection Process

If your pre-legal collection efforts have been unsuccessful, the only way left to collect on unpaid past-due invoices is to take legal action against your debtor. While pre-legal collections are not subject to legal regulations, the legal collection procedure is governed by specific formal and legal requirements and deadlines, and failure to comply with these can hamper the success of your collection effort.

Application for Issuing a Court Order for Payment

The first step in the legal collection process is applying for a court order for the debtor to pay what they owe. The court will issue an order that the debtor will be served with. This order suspends the limitation period of your claim and is a prerequisite for any future enforcement order against the debtor. At the same time, the creditor receives an invoice for the court fees of the collection proceedings.

Application Returned Due to Incomplete or Incorrect Information

The competent local court reviews the application for shortcomings and inconsistencies. The court will return the application if it finds any flaws. Common findings pointed out by courts are errors or omissions in the names of claimant or defendant, incomplete details on claims or incorrect legal forms. The defendant has the opportunity to reply to the court’s response. In many cases, however, the findings and explanations given by courts are difficult to understand, which is why service hotlines have been made available that offer quick help for defendants.

Court Order for Payment

Once the order for payment has been issued by the court, the defendant will be served with it. The court order lists the addresses of claimant, defendant and attorney of record as well as the claim, i.e. the original amount owed by the debtor, plus interest and secondary claims. It also includes court and attorney fees even if they have not been specified in the application for the court order; these fees are calculated by the court.
Unless exceptional factors (such as interest scales) indicate otherwise, interest is calculated automatically for the entire period up to the date the court order was issued. All amounts and the interest incurred are added up to a total amount payable, which is printed on the court order for the defendant to see at a glance what they owe. The claimant will not receive a copy of the court order but will be notified once the defendant has been served with the court order. Along with the notification will come an invoice for the court fees.
If the court order cannot be delivered to the defendant at the address specified in the application, the court will send a non-delivery notification to the claimant, stating the reason why it was not possible to serve the defendant. An application for new delivery will be attached to this notification for the claimant to re-attempt delivery of the court order to the same or a different address. If the defendant has moved to a different address or cannot be located, the claimant might start an address investigation. Any costs incurred for investigating the defendant’s new address can be claimed against the defendant. Another reason a court order cannot be delivered may be that the defendant’s name was incomplete or was misspelled.

Objection

After being served, the defendant has a period of two weeks to pay the amount claimed or to file an objection. If the defendant objects to the court order, the claimant will be notified and will receive an invoice for court fees for hearing the disputed claim. Once the claimant filed his objection, the legal dunning proceedings are closed. Any pursuit of the claim needs to be continued in regular civil proceedings, which usually end in a judgment or settlement. If the defendant acknowledges only part of the claim established in the court order, he can file a partial objection and the objection will be limited to the disputed amount. The pursuit of the disputed claim amount can only be continued in civil proceedings, while the collection of the undisputed amount can be pursued by applying for an enforcement order against the defendant.

Enforcement Order

If two weeks after issuing the court order for payment, the defendant has failed to pay the amount claimed against him or has not filed an objection, the defendant can apply for having an enforcement order issued against the defendant. The earliest date for submitting such an application is two weeks after serving the defendant with the court order for payment; this deadline is extended to the next business day if the two-week period ends on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday. According to Section 701 of the German Code of Civil Procedure, the application for issuing an enforcement order, or writ of execution, must be filed with the competent court within a period of six months beginning on the day the court order for payment is served. After that period, the court order that the defendant was served with will no longer be effective.
The application for issuing an enforcement order needs to include any payments made by the defendant to the claimant. It can also include different names or addresses that may have been disclosed in the delivery notice by the postal service. The claimant can also specify whether he wants to arrange delivery of the enforcement order himself or whether he wants delivery to be taken care of by the court. If the claimant chooses the first option, the legal dunning procedure is closed once the enforcement order has been issued and the defendant needs arrange and pay for delivery of the enforcement order. This is why claimants usually opt for having the court deliver the enforcement order. The claimant can still apply for an enforcement order even if the defendant has filed an objection against part of the claimed amount. This objection will be officially acknowledged by the court. 
An application for an enforcement order cannot be filed if the claim has been completely paid off by the defendant. The court does not need to be notified of any such payment.

Debt Enforcement

The enforcement order is an enforceable judgment that can be collected by seizing the debtor’s assets. Once the enforcement order is issued, the proceedings at the local court are closed. All proceedings for enforcing the collection are handled by another court that is responsible debt enforcements. With a few exceptions (such as foreclosures), the competent enforcement court is the local court at the debtor’s residence or registered office.

For all activities related to collecting the judgment, the court needs the enforceable document of the enforcement order, that is, the original document sent by the court that issued the order, a copy is not sufficient. There are a variety of methods for collecting a judgment. In most cases, collection is entrusted to a court officer.
Accounts receivable and collection specialists need to organize and monitor this entire process.

Complex Processes – Time-Consuming and Cost-Intensive

Having a successful legal collection process in place requires know-how and employee resources, which makes it a cost driver to be reckoned with. This presents accounts receivable and collection specialists with specific challenges. To streamline the legal collection process, companies can use an electronic data interchange procedure to submit applications (court order for payment, enforcement order, re-delivery, etc.) to courts.
Applications sent through electronic data interchange are usually processed within a business day of filing the application, which speeds up processing time and reduces the number of returned applications due to incorrect or incomplete information.
To qualify for participation in the electronic data interchange procedure, companies need to obtain a special ID and a software solution that is able to create applications for court orders that meet the specified requirements and that is able to create the EDI files, i.e. the electronic data records. The EGVP (German Electronic Court and Administration Inbox) application encrypts these data records, equips them with a qualified signature and sends them off to the competent court.
Having adequate system support facilitates also all the other activities and follow-up processes within the legal collection procedure. The employees involved can process all their tasks smoothly and efficiently in the system that they are using – which is usually an SAP system.
SOPLEX has developed an SAP software solution that allows you to manage the entire legal collection process, while optimizing your accounts receivable management and maximizing your collection success rate.


Why don’t you see for yourself what our SOPLEX LD EGVP (Legal Dunning) solution can do for your organization?