Polish law is based on civil law and adopts a codified system. Since becoming a fully-fledged member of the EU in 2004, Poland has implemented EU-wide regulations and directives such as Regulation (EC) No. 1896(2006) that creates a European order for payment procedure and Regulation (EC) No. 861/2007 that establishes a European small claims procedure.
Under Polish law, a number of separate legal procedures for different combinations of business types and natural persons exist. Depending on the given debt situation and debt size, cases can be tried under the normal timeframe (see below) in the Commercial Court or can be expedited if, for instance, the subject of litigation is worth less than zł10,000. In order to protect the rights of creditors, injunctions and seizures may be introduced.
Types of Companies
A solid understanding of the different kinds of companies is vital for effective debt collection in Poland. The most common company types are the following:
- A jednoosobowa działalność gospodarcza (sole trader) is a type of company that involves no minimum capital requirement and where the owner has unlimited liability for the company’s debts. Tradesmen and individuals offering a particular service usually found and run these.
- A spółka cywilna (SC) (civil law partnership) involves no minimum capital requirement and partners have unlimited liability for debts incurred.
- A spółka komandytowo (SP. K) (limited partnership) requires no minimum capital and at least one partner has unlimited liability for debts, with limited partners enjoying limited liability.
- A spółka komandytowo-akcyjna (S. K. A.) (private unlimited company with shareholders) requires minimum capital of zł50,000 and at least one partner has unlimited liability for debts incurred.
- A spółka jawna (SP.J.) (general partnership) requires no minimum capital and partners have unlimited liability.
- A spółka z ograniczoną odpowiedzialnością (SP. Z O.O.) (limited liability company) requires minimum capital of zł5,000 and partners are liable only for the total value of the company’s capital.
- A spółka akcyjna (S.A.) (company with shareholders) requires minimum capital of zł100,00) divided into shares. The company is liable for the amount of capital held in those shares.
With 2 (two) years for domestic commercial sale claims and 10 years for a judgement, the statutory limitation period in Poland is among the shortest in the EU. Only a judicial interruption of a limitation is possible.
The most common form of payment is bank transfer to the (foreign) creditor’s account or forwarding payment to the collection agency, which then wires the outstanding sum to the client. Other payment methods can be arranged. Separate accounts are set up for the repayment of debts.
Information on Debtors
In Poland, public registers of companies are easily accessible. Depending on the type of company, these registers will contain information on a given company’s solvency and assets.
Information on consumers and their assets is protected under Polish privacy laws.
Difference between B2C and B2B Claims
B2C and B2B claims are clearly distinguished in Poland. Because of the lack of public registers for individuals, acquiring all possible details about individuals is of the utmost importance. It is impossible to obtain information about the financial situation of natural persons before legal proceedings have commenced, but once these are set in motion such information is readily available. The situation is different for companies, about whom financial information is easily accessible. The data published on public websites are not always up to date, however, it should be noted that the procedures on how to send reminders to debtors have not been formalized in Poland. Costs and fees are agreed on a case-by-case basis.