Complexity of collecting debt:
Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)
Payments in Sweden takes place within 30 days on average and the paying behavior of domestic companies is very good. Delays are rare in practice.
Late payment interest
Charging interest on late payment grounds is fairly common in Sweden. Late payment interest is regulated under the Interest law (Räntelagen (1975:635)). Unless a contract stipulates otherwise, interests for late payment must be calculated on the basis of the repo rate (reporäntan) of the Swedish central bank (Sveriges Riksbank) plus 8 percentage points. The Directive 2011/7/EU aiming at providing a harmonized framework against late payment practices in Europe has been transposed into the Interest law through the Faster Payments Bill (Sw. Snabbare betalningar, prop. 2012/13:36) which provides that payment in business-to-business transactions ought to occur within 30 days following the invoice’s issuing date. The domestic rule, therefore, is more demanding than the EU standard which stipulates that payments in the EU must be made within 60 days.
Collection costs are regulated by law, and there is a possibility to charge a flat fee of 450 SEK covering several debt collection actions. Charging this flat fee is however not common and many businesses would rather charge a fee per every single debt collection action.
Orchestrated negotiation first
Swedish courts are very efficient but amicable settlement opportunities constitute a serious alternative to formal legal proceedings. In addition, before starting legal proceedings against a debtor, assessment of assets is important as it allows verification as to whether the company is still active and whether recovery chances are at good. 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 (see below).
The judiciary in Sweden divides into District Courts competent to deal with all claims notwithstanding value considerations, Courts of Appeal and a Supreme Court. Business disputes are considered by specialized commercial divisions whilst administrative disputes are dealt with before administrative tribunals. The rules are essentially codified and supported by case law evolutions.
When the debt is certain and undisputed and provided that the debtor’s assets are traceable, creditors may first rely on fast-track proceedings. An injunction of payment application (Betalningsföreläggande) may be filed with the Swedish Enforcement Administration (kronofogde-mundigheten) twelve days after the collection letter was sent to the debtor. If the injunction is granted, the debtor will be given two weeks to reply or it will be added to the official registers, thus most likely degrading its creditworthiness. If the claim for payment is not disputed, the Swedish Enforcement Authority (Sw. Kronofogdemyndigheten) may also issue a Payment Order (without any hearings of the parties being required), which becomes fully enforceable four weeks later by the Authority. The execution cost is SEK 600. If a debtor opposes the Order, the creditor normally has ten days to file a request for the case to be heard by the Court through an ordinary lawsuit. If the amicable phase fails or if the debtor questions the claim, the option of starting legal proceedings remains. Legal action would commence with the filing of a claim with the District Court, which then serves the debtor with Summons. The debtor must bring a defence within a couple of weeks otherwise the creditors would be entitled to request a default judgment from the court. The parties would then exchange arguments and a hearing would be set up by the court prior to taking a decision. The courts are to decide on remedies for damages, interest, litigations and also punitive damages. Where the debtor company is present in other EU Member States and provided that the debt is undisputed, the District Courts are also competent to issue a European Payment Order enforceable in all European Union countries (except Denmark) without exequatur proceedings (Regulation 1896/2006/EC).
Swedish insolvency law does not possess a coherent body of legal rules but insolvency is defined in the Swedish Bankruptcy Act (1987:672) as being unable to pay one’s debts in a proper manner where such inability is not temporary. Insolvent persons can be declared bankrupt (i konkurs) irrespective of whether they are legal or natural persons.
> For more information on local collection practices, court proceedings and insolvency read the full Collections Profile