Small claims: what to do in the event of non-payment?

A simplified small claims collection procedure can be initiated by a bailiff at the request of the creditor. Introduced by the Macron law of August 6, 2015, this scheme avoids the need for legal proceedings, which can sometimes prove long and costly. Find out how to deal with unpaid small claims.

Calling in a bailiff for a small unpaid debt

The Macron law introduced a simplified procedure for the collection of small claims, which can be used for debts that are too small to be effectively referred to the courts in the event of non-payment. Since January 1, 2020, this procedure makes it possible to obtain payment ofa debt that does not exceed 5,000 euros, including interest, compared with 4,000 euros previously.

In practical terms, the procedure is set up by a bailiff based in the jurisdiction of the court of appeal where the debtor is domiciled. The bailiff sends a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt to the debtor so that he can take part. This letter includes :

  • The name and address of the bailiff;
  • The creditor's name, address and registered office;
  • The basis and amount of the sum due ;
  • A reminder of the relevant articles of law;
  • The possibility for the debtor to accept or refuse the procedure.

The debtor has one month from the date of dispatch of the letter in which to express his or her agreement, against a receipt, by post or electronically. If no reply is received within this period, the creditor is deemed to have implicitly refused. In this case, the creditor may apply to the court to obtain a writ of execution.

Once the debtor and creditor have agreed on the amount and terms of payment, the bailiff issues a writ of execution without further formality, enabling the debtor's assets to be seized in the event of default.

The cost of the simplified small claims procedure is borne by the creditor. The cost is :

  • 15 euros for filing ;
  • 30 euros to obtain a writ of execution ;
  • 22 euros fee if the claim is less than or equal to 188 euros.

Using the payment order procedure for small claims

There is another way of recovering a small claim if it is based on a contract, a bill of exchange, a promissory bill or the acceptance of an assignment of a professional claim. The injunction to pay procedure enables a debt to be legally recognized. It involves a simple request filed with the clerk's office of the competent court, mentioning :

  • Full civil status of the applicant and the person against whom the application is made;
  • The purpose of the request and the amount claimed.

If the judge deems the application to be justified, he will issue an order for payment of the sum withheld. The judge may also reject the application, obliging the creditor to initiate conventional legal proceedings.