25 June 2024

Changed rules for recovery of unpaid invoices

by Magali Anné and Sofie Desmet

Since September 1, 2023, new rules have been in effect to protect consumers against excessive collection costs and unfair practices regarding payment arrears. Since December 1, 2023, these rules also apply to all pre-existing agreements between your company and consumers. This legislation, established in the Code of Economic Law, brings significant changes for both consumers and businesses.

(First) payment reminder

One of the most notable changes is that the first payment reminder must now always be free of charge for the consumer. This means that companies can only charge costs after a waiting period of 14 calendar days. This waiting period starts the day after the reminder is sent if sent electronically, or on the third working day if sent by postal mail. This gives consumers the opportunity to pay without incurring additional costs.

This reminder must contain clear information, including:

  • the name and business number of the company;

  • a detailed description of the product or service to which the invoice relates;

  • the due date of the debt;

  • the outstanding amount;

  • the 14 calendar day period within which the debt must be paid before additional costs are charged;

  • the fee that is due in case of late payment.

For each subsequent reminder, costs of up to € 7.50 (plus shipping costs) may be charged.

Note: If it concerns a regular delivery of goods or services, you do not have to send unlimited free reminders if the consumer remains in default. In such a case, a maximum of 3 free reminders per year applies.

Limitation on costs and interests

The law also imposes strict maximums on the costs that can be charged for late payments:

  • for a debt up to € 150: a maximum of € 20;

  • for debts between €150.01 and € 500: a maximum of € 30 plus 10% of the amount above € 150;

  • for debts above € 500: a maximum of € 65 plus 5% of the amount above € 500, with a maximum of € 2,000.

In addition to the limitation of the penalty clause, the late payment interest that you can charge after the 14-day period is also limited. Late payment interest cannot exceed the statutory interest rate plus 8%. This means that the previously common fixed rates of 12% or more are no longer allowed. These interests must also be explicitly stated in the contract or general terms and conditions.

Additional protection

In addition to the free first reminder and the limitation on costs and interests, the law provides additional protections such as the obligation for companies to provide supporting documents if the consumer requests them, the right for consumers to request payment facilities, and strict rules for amicable collections, where collection agencies are also under the supervision of the Economic Inspectorate.


Companies that do not comply with the new rules face significant risks. Sanctions may include the nullification of all additional costs and penalty clauses, and the company may be required to refund wrongfully collected amounts. Additionally, the consumer may be exempt from paying the penalty clause if the company does not comply with legal obligations.


The new legislation introduces significant changes in how companies must handle consumer debts. These rules are designed to protect consumers from excessive costs and to give them a fair chance to settle their debts without immediately facing extra costs and interests. For companies, this means that they need to review and adjust their general terms and conditions and reminder letters.

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