On 1 October 2021, the Act to Improve Consumer Protection in Debt Collection Law came into force in Germany. It brought with it far-reaching changes for the reimbursability of collection costs.
The starting point for the reimbursability of collection costs is now § 13e RDG (Legal Services Act). It stipulates that creditors can reclaim the costs charged for collection activities from the debtor by way of compensation for damages. For this purpose, the same amount of remuneration is applied that a lawyer would be entitled to according to the provisions of the German Lawyers' Remuneration Act (RVG) for the same activity.
The amendment of the remuneration regulations for lawyers also has an impact on the calculation of the debt collection remuneration.
With this reform, a threshold fee of 0.9 was introduced for collection activities for uncontested claims. This fee is regulated in the remuneration table to the RVG (VV RVG) in No. 2300.
For collection services in simple cases, only a charging rate of 0.5 can be claimed. As a rule, a simple case is one in which the claim is settled directly upon the first demand for payment.
In § 13 (2) RVG, the factor 1.0 fee for an uncontested claim with an object value of up to 50 euros for an out-of-court debt collection service was set at 30 euros.
Lawyers and debt collection agencies can now charge a factor 0.5 fee for the first time they send a reminder for an undisputed claim. The law regards the first assertion of an uncontested claim as a simple case that does not require special examination.
If the debtor does not pay within a two-week period and further measures are therefore necessary, the case is no longer simple. With the initiation of further measures, the processing effort increases and hence justifies a remuneration equal to a factor 0.9 fee.
If the debtor denies the claim, then the case can neither be called simple, nor can the factor 0.9 threshold fee be considered appropriate. These two fee levels only apply to uncontested claims. The remuneration increases to a maximum of a factor 1.3 fee because of the additional effort required to examine and answer the objections. The debtor has to reimburse this fee as damage caused by delay in case of unjustified contestation.
In the case of undisputed claims and a value of the matter of up to 50 euros, the factor 1.0 fee was limited to a fixed amount of 30 euros in deviation from the fee table. For the first reminder, a factor 0.5 fee of 15 euros and for the second reminder a factor 0.9 fee of 27 euros is charged. This regulation is intended to ensure that the remuneration is in reasonable proportion to the claim asserted. For all other cases, the current RVG remuneration schedule applies.
- According to the new provision in No. 1000 VV RVG, now only a factor 0.7 fee is due for assistance in concluding a payment agreement.
- § 31b RVG stipulates that the value of the matter for such an agreement is 50 % of the claim.
From this, it follows that a higher percentage of the claim can now be used as the basis for calculating the agreement fee. Where previously only 20 % of the claim could be taken as a starting point, today it is 50 %. At the same time, the fee factor in the out-of-court area is reduced from 1.5 to 0.7. The final result is a reduction for smaller claims.
The provision of § 4 (4) sentence 2 RDGEG (Introductory Act to the Legal Services Act) in its old version, according to which the remuneration of debt collection agencies for representation in judicial dunning proceedings was reimbursable up to an amount of 25 euros pursuant to § 91 (1) ZPO (Code of Civil Procedure), was deleted without replacement. Out of court and in compulsory enforcement proceedings, the remuneration of debt collection agencies and lawyers were already equalised before the recent amendment to the law. Now, this equality also applies to judicial dunning proceedings.
Pursuant to § 13e RDG, creditors can now claim reimbursement of collection costs for applying for default summons and enforcement order from the debtor up to the amount that lawyers would charge under Nos. 3305, 3308 VV RVG.
According to No. 3305 VV RVG, lawyers receive a factor 1.0 fee for representing the applicant in the dunning procedure. For representation in proceedings for the issuance of an enforcement order, a factor 0.5 fee can be charged according to No. 3308 VV RVG.
However, pursuant to preliminary note 3 (4) VV RVG, if the lawyer was also active out of court, half of the fee for the out-of-court activity must be offset against the fee for the judicial proceedings laid down in No. 3305 VV RVG. This provision under § 13e RVG now also affects debt collection agencies.
Thus, if the debt collection agency already charges a factor 1.3 fee for an extrajudicial activity, the fee for the application for the default summons must be reduced by a factor 0.65 fee following No. 3305 VV RVG. Instead of a factor 1.0 fee, only a 0.35 fee is then refundable for applying for the default summons.
In addition to all the above-mentioned regular fees, an expenses flat-rate will be charged according to No. 7002 VV RVG. Generally, this amounts to 20 % of the regular fee. However, the lump sum may not exceed 20 euros.
The Act to Improve Consumer Protection in Debt Collection Law has entailed far-reaching changes for the reimbursability of collection costs. These directly benefit the consumer.