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Limitation period of a claim: the differences and similarities between France and the Netherlands

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Limitation period France and Netherlands

The limitation period of a claim means that after a certain period of time, the claim can no longer be enforced against the counterparty. After the term has expired, the creditor can no longer recover the claim through legal enforcement. Although there are several similarities between French and Dutch law, there are also some key differences. Our lawyers explain everything you need to know below.

1. The duration of limitation periods

The limitation periods in France and the Netherlands are relatively similar. For example, the following periods apply in both countries:

Two years:
In the case of consumer purchases, a shortened limitation period of two years applies. This means that a supplier has two years to claim the payment from a buyer.

Five years:
A limitation period of five years applies in the event of a:

  • Compliance of an agreement, such as a money loan agreement.
  • If there is a violation of the agreement.
  • Payment of periodical claims such as interest on monetary amounts, rent and alimony.
  • Compensation for damages. Please note: the term commences from the moment the person who has suffered acknowledges the damages and recognises who is liable for them.

Twenty years:
In principle, the power to enforce court verdicts expires twenty years after the date of the judgment. Under French law, this period differs whereby a judgement expires after 10 years. Furthermore, separate limitation periods apply to a number of specific claims, such as tax debt or penalties.

2. Effects of prescription

Under both Dutch and French law, if a claim is time-barred this does not mean that the claim no longer exists. The claim is converted into an unenforceable natural obligation. The claim can still be redeemed in the following ways:

  • Through a voluntary payment.
  • By settling the debt with the debtor.

3. The differences: interrupting the limitation period

Dutch law
Under Dutch law, it is possible to interrupt a running limitation period. By interrupting the limitation period, a new limitation period starts running on the day following the interruption. This new period will be the same as the original limitation period, but will not exceed five years. Interruption takes place by:

  • The commencement of proceedings (summons).
  • A written reminder or notification.
  • Acknowledgement by the debtor.

Furthermore, for claims that do not concern the performance of a contract or damages, an interruption must be followed by the commencement of proceedings within six months. Otherwise, the claim will still become time-barred.

French law
Under French law, the interruption of the claim can only be effected by initiating a writ of summons or an official mediation or arbitration procedure (i.e. at an official registered mediation organisation or arbitration court). Recognition by the debtor can also interrupt the limitation period, but it must meet the following strict conditions:

  • A signature of the debtor.
  • The debt must be hand-written and include the exact amount of the claim in letters (for example three hundred and thirty-five euros and thirty-five cents).

If these conditions are met, a limitation period of 10 years applies.

More information on French and Dutch limitation periods

Our lawyers at the French Desk are specialised in both Dutch and French law and conduct proceedings in the Netherlands and France. If you have any questions, please contact our office.

Author: Kasia Durlik

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