In this last article of her series about debt collection in The Netherlands, Sonia Beedie will elaborate on the substantive procedure. This is the most lengthy and costly way of collecting a debt and is therefore not the most preferable procedure. However, in instances where for example there is not enough compelling documented evidence or where there is not enough urgency for a provisional procedure, this type of procedure can be the best way forward.
Depending on the amount of the claim, here are two different competent courts. In cases up to € 25.000 the cantonal court is competent, for claims above € 25.000 the (non-cantonal) court is competent. The substantive procedure in both courts starts by serving of the subpoena. This is done by a bailiff. The subpoena will mention the claim, the grounds thereof, the initial court date and in which way the defendant can appear in court. In cantonal court cases the defendant may represent himself, in other court cases he will need legal representation. There must be a minimum of 7 days between the serving and the initial court date. The defendant may file a written defense statement or, in case of cantonal court, appear in person and verbally defend himself. Usually, the defendant’s lawyer will present himself in writing before court and request a postponement for the written defense statement. The first postponement (of 4 to 6 weeks) will always be granted, further postponements only with consent of opposing party.
Once the written defense statement has been made, the court will decide how to proceed. Generally, a court hearing will be planned. This court hearing is meant for a personal appearance of parties, to provide information or to attempt to reach a settlement. The court may ask specific questions beforehand or give specific instructions. During this court hearing, it is often also clarified whether for example further evidence is necessary by means of witness hearing or issuance of expert opinions. Parties can also be given the opportunity to attempt a settlement. After the hearing is concluded, if parties were not able or willing to settle, the court will determine a date for the verdict.
If the court is of the opinion that certain relevant facts have not yet been proved sufficiently, it can give an interlocutory judgement in which the party who carries the burden of proof will be ordered to provide such proof of certain facts. The procedure then usually continues with witness hearing. In the standard debt collection cases however, further evidence is not usually necessary and it is more common that the court will give a definite verdict. This verdict can then be used to execute a possible provisional seizure and/or initiate other enforcement measures. The standard appeal term of such a verdict is 3 months. Execution of the verdict is not suspended automatically by an appeal.
This procedure can easily take a year or more to complete.
In her series of articles Sonia has given a simplified overview of the various debt collection measures your client can take in the Netherlands. If you have a client who is contemplating such measures, Sonia would be very happy to give a more concrete and extensive advice on which procedure to choose, the chances of success, the exact costs and time frame for such a procedure.