Guidelines for international debt collection in France

Published on 31 May 2023 in Recovery Guidelines

In order to provide you with all the information and advice you need to collect your invoices, we have asked each of our partners to provide you with a guide to effective debt collection in their country.

Today we look at debt collection in France for a creditor abroad (Europe or outside Europe).

Advice on debt collection in France from abroad

Are you a company based abroad looking to collect a debt in France? With these simple tips, you should be able to improve the payment of your French debts.

When a debt is established, the rules in force in the country where the debt is owed apply. It is therefore necessary for a foreign creditor to find out about debt collection rules in France.

Adapting to your debtor based in France

To avoid misunderstandings or confusion, it is best to start a dialogue in your debtor's language, French. To do this, you will need to master the language yourself. So calling on the services of a debt collection company in France will be the best way to achieve your goals.

Anticipating and preventing debt in France

In France, most invoices are payable within 30 days, although this period can be extended by the Terms and conditions. If you offer different payment terms because you are located in another country, we recommend that you make your payment terms clear to your French customers in your Terms and Conditions and contracts.

How is amicable debt collection carried out in France?

Amicable debt collection takes place when a customer no longer pays its bills. To be valid, a debt must be :

  • certain: there must be proof of the debt;
  • liquid: the amount is definite and determinable;
  • due: the payment deadline has passed. In France, an invoice is considered to become a debt the day after the payment deadline expires.

You can then initiate an amicable debt collection procedure, which can take a number of different forms.

Commercial reminders

You can choose several forms of communication for a commercial reminder: sending an e-mail, a letter or a telephone call. The aim is to understand the origin of the debt and to initiate a discussion with your customer.

You can carry out this reminder procedure in-house or outsource the task to a company that specialises in collecting unpaid invoices. It is important to keep a record of all your reminders so that you can support your case in the event of legal proceedings.

Send a formal notice to pay

If the commercial reminder does not produce results, it will be necessary to send a letter of formal notice to pay to the debtor, using registered post with acknowledgement of receipt. This letter should include all the information concerning the debt, in particular:

  • Name and contact details of your company, and of the debt collection agency if one exists;
  • Surname, first name and contact details of your debtor in France;
  • The amount of the unpaid invoice, together with any interest and penalties for late payment in force under your General Terms and Conditions of Business;
  • Indications as to how this sum can be paid and the Terms and Conditions (deadlines);
  • Proof of the debt (signed quotation, delivery note, order form).

These procedures are often sufficient to initiate a dialogue about the debt and, in many cases, to obtain payment within a relatively short period of time.

Legal collection procedures in France from abroad

If, despite all these steps, no response is received from the debtor, you can initiate legal collection proceedings.

Here are the legal procedures available in France for international debts:

Debt collection procedures between European countries

As France is part of the European Union, you can benefit from simplified debt collection procedures, including:

  • The European Enforcement Order ;
  • The European Payment Order;
  • The European Small Claims Procedure: a simplified procedure to speed up the recovery of cross-border claims up to a maximum of €5,000.

These simplified procedures are generally effective in France, as companies tend to react quickly when legal proceedings are initiated.

Debt collection in France from a foreign country (outside Europe)

If you are outside Europe, you can still take legal action. To begin with, you will need to obtain a writ of execution in your country so that the debt can be validated.

You will need a lawyer specializing in private international law to enforce this decision in France. It is advisable to use professionals with a presence in France, such as a French bailiff or a French lawyer, for all actions taken against the French debtor. They have a better knowledge of the practices and procedures in force in France.

In conclusion, when it comes to collecting French debts from abroad, using a debt collection company in France can offer several significant advantages, such as time savings, a high success rate, success-based fees, expertise and knowledge of the French legal system, and a network of professionals in France to carry out the collection.

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