Collection claim: What should I do?

Have you unexpectedly received a collection letter? Are you feeling under pressure and are you worried about further consequences? The most important thing is to stay calm. The bailiff won’t be knocking on your door tomorrow. Here is what to do:

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Step one: Check the claim! 

In the outset, you should take the time to check whether you really do owe the company any money. Think about whether you have paid all your bills for goods or services you have purchased and make sure that no payments are outstanding. For example, if you forgot to pay for your last online order and ignored the reminders, you should pay the collection invoice promptly to avoid incurring any further costs. Before doing so, you should check whether the additional costs are proportionate. We’ll tell you how to do that in step three. 

If you are sure that the request for payment is not justified, you need to respond to it. Here’s how to do that:

Step two: Check the collection agency! 

An increasing number of consumers are receiving questionable collection letters by post or email. Fake collection letters often have foreign account numbers. The blacklist of fake collection companies which we are aware of can be found here.
 

A foreign bank account makes a collection claim stand out as being potentially questionable. You can recognise a foreign bank account by the country code of the IBAN number, e.g. PL, ES, LT.

The content and design of the collection letter may also indicate that it relates to a scam. This is the case, for example, if the individual costs are not listed, the most important company information is not provided or a round sum is requested.
If your collection letter is an attempt at fraud, you should ignore reminders and payment requests and it may be necessary to report the case to the police.
 

Every reputable debt collection agency in Germany must be registered. You can look them up in the register of legal services free of charge!

Step three: Make a complaint!

If the company is a proper debt collection agency, but the payment claim is not justified, you should definitely make a complaint. You can either dispute the entire claim or just the collection expenses (these are the additional costs for the collection procedure) if they are excessive or unjustified, for example account management costs or costs for finding an address.

We advise you to send the complaint by registered post and inform the alleged contracting party by sending them a copy.

If you are unsure whether you are obliged to make the payment or whether the full amount of the costs is due, you can check the collection claim with the consumer advice centre’s collection check service here.

You can read another text on the subject of “collection claims” here.