Greece

 

Greece
       

Greece

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2013: 89/189 countries
 
 


Complexity of collecting debt:

grading
Notable High Very High Severe


Executive summary

  • Late payments in Greece are frequent and, despite improvements being regularly observed, the average DSO remains high compared to other EU markets 100 days on average for 2015 - but this is not surprising as the law has implemented EU rules on late payment with flexibility.
  • Although the courts are fairly reliable, the legal process remains slow and enforcement may be difficult because debtors are often well aware of loopholes in the system.
  • Insolvency law provides a debt renegotiation mechanism but collecting money at this stage remains a significant challenge.
 
General Information GENERAL INFORMATION arrow-transparent
 
Collection Practices COLLECTION PRACTICES arrow-transparent
Court Proceedings Court PROCEEDINGS arrow-transparent
 
Insolvency Proceedings INSOLVENCY PROCEEDINGS arrow-transparent
 
General Information 

GENERAL INFORMATION

Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)

Late payments in Greece are frequent and in 2015 bills were settled in 100 days on average compared to 106 days in 2014, showing a slowly improving trend.  However, it still remains higher than in other EU countries.

 

Late payment interest

Late payment interest may be charged to the debtor on the first overdue day. The Recast Directive 2011/7/EU, which stipulates that payments in the EU must be made within 60 days, was transposed into domestic law through Law 4152/2013 (which retroactively entered into force on March 16th, 2013). By contrast with the regulations set forth in most EU Member States, the late payment rules in Greece are very comprehensive in that, as a general rule, payment terms in business-to-business transactions must not exceed 60 calendar days unless otherwise agreed by contract and provided that the delays are not grossly unfair to the creditor. Beyond this point, interest may be due as negotiated by the parties, but in any case the law allows creditors to charge an automatic interest rate based on the European Central Bank refinancing rate reaching approximately 7.5%

In theory, the transposition of the Recast Directive 2011/7/EU into domestic law would entitle a creditor to charge a flat EUR 40 collection fee when payment is late. In practice, however, it is very uncommon to do so unless a claim is brought to court.

 
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collection practice 

COLLECTIONS PRACTICES

Orchestrated negotiation first

Amicable settlement opportunities (including Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods) should always be considered as a strong alternative to formal proceedings because domestic courts, despite being transparent and fairly reliable, would tend to be slow. Before starting legal proceedings against a debtor, assessment of assets is important as it allows verification as to whether the company is still active whether recovery chances are at best. In addition, it is essential to be aware of the debtor’s solvency status: if insolvency proceedings have been initiated, it indeed becomes impossible to enforce a debt.

 
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Court Proceeding 

COURT PROCEEDINGS

Greece has a Civil Law system inspired from the French and German legal frameworks. The law is therefore largely codified and the courts are not bound by precedents even though consistent decisions tend to be used for guideline purposes. Since a reform conducted in 2012, claims below EUR 20,000 fall under the jurisdiction of the Justices of the Peace Tribunals (Eirinodikeio), claims up to EUR 250,000 are dealt with by Single-Member Courts of First Instance (Monomeles Protodikeio); claims in excess of this amount are dealt with by Multi-Member Courts of First Instance (Polymeles Protodikeio). Further reform effective since 01/01/2016 aims to ease the procedures in Civil Courts in order to decrease delays.


Legal dunning ought to start with a registered Demand Letter recalling the debtor its obligation to pay the principal together with late payment interests (as contractually agreed or taking a legal rate as a reference). Should the debtor fail to pay, and provided that the claim is certain and undisputed, the creditor may then request a Payment Order (Diataghi Pliromis) before the court of first instance or with the Justices of Peace. The debtor's presence is not necessary, however all documents shall be translated in Greek in order to be considered. After examination of the request, the court may agree to issue the requested Order which is enforceable immediately. The debtor is then given three days to pay the debt (the order then becomes enforceable) or to file a defence (opposition does not have any suspense effect on the Order), in which case it becomes necessary to commence ordinary legal action. In practice, the Payment Order fast-track procedure usually takes three to four months depending on the courts' workload and thus constitutes the best tool once collecting debt. It is worth adding that such proceedings may also be commenced on the basis of bouncing cheques (judgment would then be obtained within three to five months). When the debtor company has assets in other EU Member States, a European Payment Order procedure (facilitating the recovery of undisputed debts under Regulation EC No 1896/2006) may then be triggered. In this case, the demanding party may request a domestic court to issue an Order to Pay which would then be enforceable in all European Union countries (except Denmark) without exequatur proceedings. Ordinary legal action would usually commence when amicable collection has failed. The creditor files a claim (agogi) with the court, which then serves the debtor within sixty days, but hearing would be set at least one and a half year later. The Law furthermore allows one postponement upon debtor’s request, which is frequently requested and further delays the proceedings. Since 2011, the law allows the courts to render default judgments if the respondent fails to file a defence (Statute 3994/2011). Since 01/01/2016, there is a change in the procedure regarding lawsuit (agogo) but as this is in an intermediate stage, there is no experience regarding the length of proceedings. The procedure will be based exclusively on documentation provided, therefore it is essential to receive the complete documentation supporting the claim as soon as possible.

 
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insolvency Proceeding 

INSOLVENCY PROCEEDINGS

Insolvency in Greece is a matter of cash-flow: a debtor is deemed insolvent once it is permanently incapable of paying its debts as they fall due. The Greek Bankruptcy Code was enacted in 2007 (Law 3588/2007, as amended in 2010, 2011, 2012 and most recently in 2015) to harmonize a fragmented legal framework. It essentially introduced a debt reorganization process as a means to avoid systematic liquidation of viable companies in temporary financial difficulty. In addition, the most recent amendments to the law aimed at decreasing delays and ensuring that debtors would no longer be able to use insolvency proceedings to delay payments any further. Nonetheless, collecting money out of insolvency proceedings remains very difficult.​

 
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