Debt collection and debt recovery in Poland
- Debt Collection in Poland
- Injunctions / order for payment
- Debt collaterals / securities
- Enforcement of foreign judgements
- Enforcement procedure
- Late Payment Interest Rate in Poland
- Limitation periods
- Bankruptcy in Poland
- Debt collection in Polish cities
Whether you are a company manager, an foreign entrepreneur or an investor, sooner or later you might face an issue of debt collection in Poland, either as a creditor wanting to quickly recover what is owed or a debtor intending to control liquidity or debt collection expenses.
Debt collection in Poland – key facts
|Credit scoring agencies:||Available – due to data protection different data may be available for various legal forms|
|Listing debtor in debt register:||Available – after meeting certain statutory conditions|
|Debtor research databases:||
|Interim orders:||Available – allowing to seize assets and bank accounts prior to litigation|
|Fast track procedures:||Available – for certain claims (recognized or secured)|
|Standard debt collection time:||From 6 months – 2 years|
|Judicial review of debt collection judgments:||Available – 1 level appeal and additional cassation appeal to Supreme Court in certain cases|
|Lawyer required?||Only for certain debt collection stages|
|Enforcement of foreign court rulings / arbitral awards:||Available – different procedures depending on origin|
Debt collection in Poland – methods
Debt collection in Poland is not very different from the procedures available in other European countries. There are basically two methods of debt collection:
- amicable (extrajudicial) and
- judicial debt collection.
These processes are different, but they also share certain common features. Creditors wanting to recover an outstanding payment should remember that in many cases they may need to use the amicable method of debt collection before seeking a court’s intervention. Debt collection procedure in Poland can be initiated against natural persons and legal persons, such as companies and partnerships, as well as associations, foundations, sports clubs and other entities operation in the market.
|Debt collection research||
|Extrajudicial debt collection||
|Establishing debt recovery securities||
|Judicial debt collection||
|Debt collection enforcement||
Debt collection in Poland – stages
Stage 1 – Debtor check / assets search
Before executing any transaction or making any decision on initiating court proceedings against a debtor in Poland, a creditor should first research of the debtor’s financial situation and assets. If it turns out that a potential business partner is indebted, it may be a good idea to put in place an appropriate security for the transaction; if an analysis carried out before the court proceedings shows that the debtor has a number of liabilities owed to government bodies, one should think carefully if there is any point in attempting to recover debts through court proceedings.
Researching of the debtor’s financial situation in Poland differs depending on whether the debtor is:
- a commercial company and/or partnership;
- a natural person – a consumer, a sole proprietor.
Researching a corporate debtor in Poland
In the case of commercial companies and partnerships i.e.:
- general partnerships
- professional partnerships
- limited partnerships
- joint-stock limited partnership
- limited liability companies
- joint-stock companies
which are required to submit annual financial statements, the research of the financial situation can be based on the reporting documentation uploaded to the open-access government search engine available at https://ekrs.ms.gov.pl/rdf/pd/search_df. Using this tool, you can access the financial statements and performance reports for previous years. These documents will give you a picture of the potential partner’s or debtor’s financial situation. Provided you know how to read financial statements, they can tell you if a company/partnership has any valuable assets, what is the value of its liabilities and what were its profits over the recent years. Failure to draw up these documents by a company/partnership in spite of being required to do so can be a major red flag for a creditor.
Another portal where details about a company available in the database of the National Court Register can be downloaded (https://ems.ms.gov.pl/) can be a useful source of information about a debtor. Section 4 of the company’s record, which you can download if you know that company’s National Court Register number (KRS), tax identification number (NIP) or even just its name, may contain information about outstanding taxes, payments to the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) or other creditors and may tell you if the debtor’s assets were frozen as a result of bankruptcy or restructuring proceedings relating to the debtor. Absence of any such information is not enough to say that a debtor is financially good standing, however, their presence is a sign that doing business with them or filing a court action against them may be risky. This information can be accessed by anybody for free.
Researching an individual debtor
Researching the financial and assets situation of a natural person, including one running a sole proprietorship, is more challenging, because they are not required to disclose information about their affairs in any publicly available portal. There is one source that maybe helpful. Launched in July 2021, the National Debtors Register (a public government portal) provides information about bankruptcy, restructuring and enforcement proceedings relating to business entities and natural persons. This portal will tell you if any proceedings, e.g., restructuring or bankruptcy proceedings, have ever been held with respect to a potential business partner or a debtor or if they have ever been disqualified from running a business. Thanks to this portal you can also learn information about partners in partnerships who are liable for the partnership’s debts without limitation with all their assets, if the partnership has been declared bankrupt, another bankruptcy proceedings have been opened in respect of the partnership, a petition to declare the partnership bankrupt was dismissed because of lack of resources to cover the costs of bankruptcy proceedings, as well as information about entities with respect to whom enforcement proceeding held by a debt enforcement officer or a court were discontinued, because the enforcement would not yield a sum higher than the costs of enforcement proceedings; in addition, this register contains information about natural persons with respect to whom enforcement is pending in connection with back child/ spousal maintenance. All this information can prove extremely helpful in verifying the financial situation and credibility of potential business partners and debtors alike.
Other ways to research a debtor in Poland
You should also remember about other, less official tools to research the debtor’s financial situation in Poland. These include:
- Online research – you can check if a debtor or a business partner is listed in databases used by creditors wanting to sell debts,
- Credit Reference Agency, National Debts Register – these databases will tell you what is the lending history and indebtedness of business entities, as well as natural persons,
- Detective services – there are specialized entities licensed under separate regulations to investigate the assets of a debtor,
- Requesting information from courts with jurisdiction over a debtor’s seat or address on whether bankruptcy or restructuring proceedings are pending with respect to the debtor.
Researching a debtor under enforcement proceedings
It is also worth mentioning that a debt enforcement officer holding enforcement proceedings in Poland has an array of tools, unavailable to creditors, which can be used to check a debtor’s assets and seize them. You can read more on that here. In addition, before enforcement is initiated, but after a court order is obtained, during enforcement proceedings and after it ended without allowing satisfaction of claims, a creditor can submit to the court an application for disclosure of assets. In the course of the proceedings for disclosure of assets, the debtor is required to disclose and present to the court all its assets under the penalty of perjury, which can later be seized in the course of enforcement.
Stage 2 – Extrajudicial debt collection
Notice of default / demand for payment
The first and essential element that opens the extrajudicial stage of debt collection is sending a notice of default / demand for payment to the debtor. The notice should include the following information:
- when and where it was written,
- details of the creditor and the debtor,
- the basis of the obligation to pay (e.g. an invoice, a contract, etc.),
- the value of the claim (this figure can include other amounts resulting from the Act on Countering Excessive Delays in Business Transactions) and the moment when the statutory interest for late payment or interest for delay in business transactions started to accrue,
- debt due payment date,
- the bank account number for the payment,
- the creditor’s signature.
The notice of default should be sent to the debtor’s address as a registered letter with return receipt requested. Sending a scanned copy of the notice to the debtor’s e-mail address in addition to the letter is a common practice.
The role of the demand for payment / notice of default in extrajudicial debt collection
The role of the demand for payment / notice of default in extrajudicial debt collection is essential for two reasons. First of all, it shows the debtor that the creditor takes the required steps to recover the payments owed and can serve as an incentive to either pay the debt or start out-of-court negotiations. Second of all, if the creditor takes the matter to court, the notice of default is a proof that they attempted to solve the dispute amicably and indicates the date when the claim became due and payable (in the case of debts with unspecified payment dates).
A debtor’s responds to the notice in which they, for instance, offer to pay the debt in installments, but do not challenge its existence, is strong evidence that the debtor admitted the claim. This, in turn, is crucial in determining that the limitation period on the claim has been interrupted and can facilitate the creditor to obtain an order for payment without undue delay (you can learn more about the types of orders issued in the course of litigation here).
Settlement in extrajudicial debt collection
If the creditor decides to reach an agreement with the debtor over the payment of a debt, they may enter into a so-called out-of-court settlement whereby the parties agree the terms of payment based on mutual concessions. The most common solutions include payment in installments, postponement of the payment date, giving up a portion of interest by the creditor, etc. You should remember that an out-of-court settlement, although legally binding, cannot serve as grounds for debt enforcement in the course of a procedure held by a debt enforcement officer. If the debtor defaults on the settlement, the creditor still has to file a court action. For this reason, if you are about to execute an out-of-court settlement, you should consider using appropriate security arrangements, such as a blank promissory note, a suretyship provided by a third part or the debtor’s submission to enforcement in a notarial act limited to the amount specified in the settlement. With any of these in place, your chances of recovering money in the case where the debtor becomes insolvent or defaults on due payments are much higher. You can read more about the ways of securing claims here.
Engaging a lawyer or a debt collection agency to recover your money
In the event that the debtor refused to pay or ignored the notice of default, you can always turn to a debt collection agency or a law firm specializing in debt recovery. However, bear in mind that these agencies and firms take a percentage of the debt they help recover and are not authorized to seize a debtor’s assets or bank accounts (these powers are available to debt enforcement officers only). Their services principally involve reminding the debtor about the overdue payments by calling him and sending official letters.
Selling a debt as a debt collection method
One of increasingly popular solutions is the assignment of a debt on a debt exchange. This way the creditor can sell a debt and recover at least a portion of the money owed to them.
Listing in the register of debts and debtors
You can also list your debtor in the National Debts Register. Once a debtor in entered in the register, they lose all financial credibility among business partners and financial institutions. This can prove a strong incentive for the debtor to pay what they owe as soon as possible. In many cases letting the debtor know that you intend to report their details to the National Debts Register will be enough to convince them to pay their debt. Only businesses are entitled to report a debtor’s details to the register. If the debtor is not a consumer, the total amount of back payments owed to the creditor must be higher than PLN 500 and they must be overdue for at least 30 days (in the case of a consumer the minimum requirements for debt in PLN 200). Before reporting a debtor’s details to the register, you must always send a notice of default to the debtor first and you must be able to prove that you did.
If extrajudicial debt collection fails, you will need to move on to the judicial stage of debt collection.
Stage 3 – Judicial debt collection
If the extrajudicial debt collection methods described above fail, the creditor can litigate their claims in court.
Litigation is an element of the Polish civil procedure before a Polish common court. It involves two opposing parties: the claimant, namely the party who seeks from the court a specific determination indicated in the pleading initiating the proceedings – the statement of claim – and the defendant, namely the party who requests the court to dismiss the claimant’s claim (dismissal of the action).
Cost of judicial debt collection
If the creditor decides to lodge their claims in court, they must be prepared to pay a court fee for starting their court case.
The amount of the court fee in payment actions depends on the value in controversy. There are three types of court fees: fixed fees, basic fees and percentage fees.
In matters discussed in this guide, that is payment actions, the type of fee (fixed or percentage) that the claimant should pay depends on the value in controversy.
In actions for payment, the fee for the filing of a claim / lawsuit is fixed and determined based on the disputed amount in accordance with the following thresholds:
|Claim amount||Court fee|
|up to 500 PLN||30 PLN|
|up to 1,500 PLN||100 PLN|
|up to 4,000 PLN||200 PLN|
|up to 7,500 PLN||400 PLN|
|up to 10,000 PLN||500 PLN|
|up to 15,000 PLN||750 PLN|
|up to 20,000 PLN||1,000 PLN|
|above 20,000 PLN||5% of the claim amount (without interest)|
Most usually the amount sough will be greater than PLN 20,000, and the claimant will be required to pay a percentage fee equal to 5% of the amount claimed.
Statement of claim for debt / lawsuit
A statement of claim / lawsuit is a document initiating litigation. As such, it must satisfy certain conditions. A copy of a correctly drafted statement of claim is provided to the opposing party and the legal proceedings can begin.
Just like any other pleading, a statement of claim must specify the details of the court to which the document is submitted, details and addresses of the parties and their attorneys (if any) and the type of the pleading (in this case – statement of claim).
Moreover, a statement of claim should also set out with precision the relief sought by the claimant, that is what are their requests that the court should award in the final ruling. Apart from payment of overdue amounts from the defendant, in the statement of claim the claimant may seek the award of late-payment interest accrued from a specific date or the award of costs of litigating the case. The statement of claim can also set out the evidence that the court should take. This part opens the statement of claim and is referred to as the particular of claim.
The request for relief should be accompanied by reasons explaining why the relief should be awarded, so that the court can decide if there is merit in the claimant’s claims. To that end, in the causes of action section of the document the claimant should set out the facts that justify their claims (e.g. the litigants executed a sale contract on a specific date, the claimant handed over the purchased item to the buyer, but the buyer failed to pay). In the statement of claim, the claimant should also provide evidence to demonstrate that their claims (requests for relief) are justified. In simple actions for payment, it is usually sufficient to provide copies of invoices, bills, documents confirming that the claimant kept their end of the transaction (e.g. proof of delivering the purchased item, wire transfer confirmation, etc.) with the statement of claim. If the circumstances of the case are more complex and the claimant expects the defendant to challenge the existence of the claim or its value, the claimant may want to consider applying to the court (in the statement of claim) to admit and take evidence from witnesses to support the alleged facts. In some cases, proving the value of the claim asserted by the claimant may require expert evidence, that is an opinion issued by an expert in a given filed. An expert’s opinion may be necessary, for instance, when the claimant wants to prove that they suffered losses of specific value in consequence of inappropriate performance of a contract by the defendant.
In addition to the above-described elements, a statement of claim / lawsuit should also include:
- information if the parties attempted to settle the dispute amicably or, if they did not, explain why such attempt was not made,
- the date when the payment claimed became due and payable, that is the moment when the claimant became entitled to receive the payment from the defendant; typically, this will be the day after the expiry of the payment due date stated in the invoice or the date of the request for payment in the case of debts with unspecified payment dates,
- a list of appendixes, namely all documents attached to a statement of claim,
- a copy of the statement of claim and all appendixes to be served upon the opposing party; the original of the statement of claim stays in the case files, whereas the copy is sent to the defendant; the claimant should remember to provide one copy for each defendant in the case, and each copy of the statement of claim should include all appendixes,
- proof that the court fee for the filing of the claim was paid.
A statement of claim can also include an application for interim injunction, application for a legal aid attorney, application for waiver of costs, etc.
Statement of defense and default judgment
Responding to a statement of claim is crucial. If the defendant fails to submit a statement of defense, the court can issue a default judgment following a closed hearing. Such judgment is based exclusively on the assertions made by the claimant. In the statement of defense, the defendant can also present evidence to demonstrate that the claimant’s assertions are ill-founded.
Debt collection trial
Following the initial exchange of pleadings between the litigants, the court usually decides that the case should go to trial. During the trial, the parties provide statements to the court in respect of individual facts of the case, the court admits and takes evidence (e.g. from witnesses) and interrogates the litigants. In principle, the court’s goal is to dispose of the case during the first hearing, however, in many cases a trial is spread over several hearings, especially where the litigants applied to take evidence from witnesses.
A judgment in a debt collection case
Once the trial ends, the court issues a judgment. In the judgment, the court can either:
- award the claim in whole or in part and order the defendant to pay the claimed amount,
- dismiss the claim in whole or in part.
In the judgment, the court also decides who and to what extent should pay the costs of litigation and attorney’s fees. Typically, the costs are awarded to the prevailing party, though there are some exceptions to this rule.
Appeal in a debt collection case
The Polish judicial process is based on a two-instance model. This means that both parties to litigation can appeal against the judgment in part or in whole if they are unsatisfied with the outcome of the case. An appeal is heard by a second-instance court, which can dismiss the appeal (the judgment becomes final and non-appealable and may be enforceable by way of enforcement proceedings), grant the appeal and vary the judgment (e.g. by dismissing the action) or set aside the judgment and remand the case for rehearing (which means that the case is back before a first-instance court).
Cassation appeal to the Supreme Court
As already discussed, the judicial process, including a debt collection case, is based on a two-instance model. This means that a case is first heard by a first-instance court (a district court or a regional court depending on the jurisdiction) and then, if either party appeals the judgment, a second-instance court (a regional court if the case was first heard by a district court or an appeals court if the appeal concerns a judgment of a regional court). Generally, a final and non-appealable judgment of a second-instance court ends a court case.
Admissibility of a cassation appeal in debt collection cases
The Polish law provides for certain cases where a final and non-appealable judgment of a second-instance court can be challenged by means of an extraordinary appeal measure – a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court. In debt collection cases (cases for payment), a cassation appeal can be lodged if the amount sought on appeal, namely the part of the judgment awarding or dismissing the claim that was appealed, crosses the prescribed limit. In accordance with the law, a cassation appeal can be lodged if the amount sought on appeal is not lower than PLN 50,000 (in cases relating to labor law and social security insurance – not lower than PLN 10,000). This amount does not include court fees, non-capitalized interest, alternative claims, etc. Once a judgment with reasons is served, the parties have two months to lodge a cassation appeal.
Requirements for a cassation appeal in debt collection cases
It is important to remember that the Supreme Court is not a court of third-instance that hears a cassation appeal on the same rules that apply to a second-instance court hearing an appeal. The Supreme Court is commonly described as a court of law, as opposed to a court of facts. This means that it does not review the factual context of the case or the veracity of the parties’ or witnesses’ assertions, but focuses instead on the legal errors in judgments and their compliance with law. For this reason, the Supreme Court will not hear all the cases that can be challenged by means on a cassation appeal, admitting only ones that meet specific criteria.
In accordance with the law, a cassation appeal should meet the following special requirements:
- it should include an application for leave to lodge a cassation appeal (with reasons),
- it should state the grounds for the cassation appeal and explain the reasons in support of them.
Preliminary review – when the Supreme Court admits a cassation appeal for examination
Having carried out a preliminary review of the cassation appeal at a closed hearing not attended by the parties, the Supreme Court admits the appeal for examination (this should not be confused with the award of the appeal), which means that proceedings relating to the appeal are initiated, if the application for leave to lodge a cassation appeal demonstrates that:
- the case involves a crucial legal question to be determined,
- it is necessary to provide an interpretation of legal regulations that give rise to serious doubts or lead to inconsistent court rulings;
- the proceedings are void or
- the cassation appeal is clearly justified.
Given the rigorous and highly specialist nature of proceedings before the Supreme Court, a cassation appeal must be drafted and lodged by an attorney. This means that a party to proceedings before the Supreme Court must be represented by a professional counsel. That said, the majority of the cases end after the preliminary review with the court’s refusal to admit the cassation appeal for examination, because many litigants confuse the role of the Supreme Court with that of a third-instance court.
The scope of review by the Supreme Court
If the Supreme Court admits a cassation appeal for examination, it focuses on whether there is merit in the grounds of the cassation appeal. A cassation appeal may be lodged on the grounds that, for instance, a ruling of a second-instance court contains an error in substantive law or procedural law, provided that such error could have had material impact on the outcome of the case.
If the grounds alleged in the cassation appeal are found to be justified, the Supreme Court can revoke the appealed judgment in whole or in part; this applies to judgments issued by first-instances courts, as well. In exceptional cases, such as debt collection cases, the Supreme Courts is authorized to examine a case on the merits by either awarding or dismissing a claim.
Stage 4 – Enforcement
The enforcement procedure in Poland is held by a specialized public official called a debt enforcement officer / public bailiff (in Polish: komornik). The debt enforcement takes place upon an application filed by the creditor. The application must be accompanied by the relevant enforcement title – most usually – the final court judgment. To learn more please see section: Debt enforcement in Poland. Enforcement in Poland may also me performed based on the foreign court judgements.
Is extrajudicial debt collection obligatory in Poland?
No, in most of the cases you can directly start judicial debt collection.
Are debt collection agencies licensed in Poland?
No, debt collection agencies are not licensed in Poland.
Is the lawyer or law firm required for debt collection in Poland?
No. Certain judicial actions may be undertaken just by qualified attorneys.
What is the cost of debt collection in Poland?
You must consider individually agreed fees for debt collection and court fee of 5% of claim value (for claims greater than 20.000 PLN)
What is the standard commission / success fee for debt collection in Poland?
There is not standard commission amount. Depending on case complexity agencies charged from 5 – 30% of claim amount.
Is no cure no fee allowed in Poland?
Licensed attorneys in Poland are not allowed to work based on rule no cure for fee.
What is standard time to obtain judicial injunction in Poland?
Depending on the location from 2 weeks to 3 months.
What is standard judicial debt collection time?
In average judicial debt collection cases take from 3 months to 2 years time.
Does Polish law allow to seize / block bank account for debts collection?
Yes, bank accounts may be frozen based on judicial interim order.
Is there a debtor register in Poland?
There is no uniform debtor register in Poland, there are several public and private debt registers that shall be verified in debtor due diligence process.
What is the debt enforcement cost in Poland?
Enforcement costs in Poland, as a rules, are borne by the debtor and depend on enforcement method (bank account, real estate, etc.)
Are debt collection expenses / legal fees reimbursable in Poland?
Yes, but reimbursement amount is limited by statutory provisions.
What documents I need to start debt collection in Poland?
In general you will need: evidences supporting your claim and good standing certificate of your company (company excerpt).
Can judicial debt collection be performed in English?
Not really, judicial debt collection, litigation must be run entirely in Polish language. All documents and evidences must be sworn translated into Polish. As an exception arbitration may be run in English.
Are there specialized debt collection courts in Poland?
No. Debt collection cases are heard by common courts, most usually commercial departments.