May I charge reminder fees to my customers?
The question of passing on dunning costs is not only of concern to many companies, but also to numerous Courts in Germany. Here you will find information on the current legal situation.
Basically, we recommend that you first inform your customer about the outstanding payment by means of a friendly reminder. This can be done in various ways. We recommend contact by e-mail, SMS or telephone. If you choose to contact them via telephone, this call should be put into the category "Service", because the conversations with your customers can also be used to ask about their satisfaction with the order process and service. At this stage no or only low costs should be charged.
The legal situation:
It is necessary to distinguish between business transactions with a business customer (B2B) and a private customer (B2C).
In B2B, there is a legal basis for the reimbursability of (flat-rate) dunning expenses. This is clearly regulated in § 288 para. 5 BGB. According to this, a B2B customer may be charged 40 EUR as a lump sum for dunning costs.
Unfortunately, there is no comparable regulation in B2C business transactions. According to the current supreme court jurisdiction (see BGH VIII ZR 95/18, judgement of 26.06.2019), only that part of the dunning costs which can be attributed to the concrete expenses of the creditor for the reminder of the debtor in default is refundable. General costs that have not been incurred because of the specific case are not reimbursable.
Accordingly, only the following items can be taken into account for dunning costs:
- Print / Letterhead
- Dispatch of the reminder / postage
On the other hand, you cannot claim the work and time required for the damage assessment and out-of-court settlement of the claim for damages, even if you employ special personnel for this purpose or have the work done externally. Something different applies only if the effort required in the individual case exceeds the effort typically required in the context of the usual administration (see BGH VIII ZR 95/18).
We therefore recommend that the costs be recorded in concrete terms and documented for later evidence purposes.
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Team Manager Sales & Customer Relations