29 August 2023

New regulations on recovering consumer debts

by Wannes Gardin and Evelien Callewaert

From 1 September 2023, tighter regulations are set to be implemented for the recovery of any overdue debt payments owed by consumers to businesses. These new regulations will not apply in cases where two businesses have entered into an agreement with one another (B2B). In addition, the regulations only deal with debts accrued during the prior, amicable phase. Already got an enforceable title ( i.e. ruling)? Then these rules do not apply.

The initial first reminder and waiting period

For any unpaid consumer debt by the due date, the business is required to send out a first reminder in the form of a free notice of default. At the same time, a waiting period of at least 14 calendar days starts counting down from the day after sending by electronic mail or the third day after sending in the case of formal notices by post. The consumer will therefore have some time following receipt of this first reminder to verify whether the amount stipulated is correct, make the payment or dispute the debt. 

In the case of unpaid debts in the context of regular delivery of goods or services, e.g. a monthly electric bill or a subscription, only the first three reminders will be free of charge. Any additional reminder thereafter may incur additional costs. However, this amount is capped at €7.50, plus any applicable postage costs.

The reminder must also contain at least the following information:

  • The outstanding balance and the compensation clause amount to be claimed in the event of non-payment within the 14-calendar-day period;

  • The name or designation of the creditor company;

  • A description of the product that resulted in the accruing of this debt, as well as the date upon which this debt became due;

  • The period within which the debt must be repaid before any costs, interest or compensation may be sought.

At the consumer's first request, the business shall provide supporting documents regarding the debt, along with any necessary information on how to contest it.

Any clause exempting businesses from the latter-described first reminder and waiting period shall be prohibited, null and void.

Late-payment interest and damages

In addition, this limits the costs that the creditor company can claim from the consumer in case of non-payment. As such, following the first reminder and after the expiry of the 14-calendar-day period, the business can claim no payment other than:

The late-payment interest

Late-payment interest may not exceed the interest rate at the reference interest rate plus eight percentage points, as stipulated in Article 5(2) of the Law of 2 August 2002 on late payments in commercial transactions. Interest will be calculated on the outstanding sum.

Late-payment interest shall only start accruing following the expiry of the waiting period, except in the case of SMEs. For SMEs, the arrears may begin accruing from the date of the first reminder.

Flat-rate compensation (damages clause)

A flat-rate fee can only be claimed if expressly stipulated in the contract. The sum of such compensation is capped as follows:

  • Debts less than or equal to €150: €20;

  • Debts between €150.01 and €500: €30 plus 10% of debt;

  • Debts above €500: €65 plus 5% of debt on the tranche above €500, maximum €2,000.

These amounts are primarily intended to cover late-payment interest and all costs of amicable recovery of unpaid debt.


If these new regulations are not adhered to, the following penalties will apply. These are not to be taken lightly.

Exemption from payment of damages clause

Any damages clause that does not adhere to the above amounts is prohibited and shall be considered unwritten. These clauses must also be reciprocal. In other words, this means that consumers are not obliged to pay the interest and flat-rate compensation if the provisions on this are contrary to legislation.

Recovery of debts paid

In the event that the consumer were to have already paid the debt, but it appears that the above obligations were not met, the competent court may rule that the consumer be entitled to a refund of the amounts paid. In such cases, recovery cannot be restarted, as the incorrect payment by the consumer will result in a deemed discharge of debts.

Refusal of amicable recovery

If the creditor company does not respect the above regulations, amicable recovery will be refused. This means that the collections agency, lawyer or bailiff must always check whether the regulations have been complied with regarding the first reminder with waiting period, as well as the prescribed maximum amounts. If this is not the case, no amicable recovery will be possible.

It is up to the business to prove that it has complied with all obligations.

Criminal penalties

Finally, a number of criminal penalties are provided for in the event the business violates the following obligations:

  • Failure or incorrect sending of the first reminder;

  • Failure to comply with maximum amounts of damages clause.

The penalty fines range from €26 to €10,000, or even up to 4% of total annual turnover in the last completed financial year, plus any applicable surcharges.

Transitional arrangements

The new regime applies to all new agreements, as well as to arrears incurred from 1 September 2023, even if they stem from any agreement prior to this date. From 1 December 2023, these rules will then apply to any late payment, regardless of when the agreement or debt arose.

So it all comes down to updating your general terms and conditions, as well as your billing terms and conditions. Not sure how to get started on this? Our specialists are happy to help.

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Do you want to know more or need specialist advice? Don't hesitate to contact one of our specialists.

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