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Businessman talking on landline phone in office © nyul, fotolia

The late or non-payment of debts is damaging to businesses and customers alike, particularly when no information is available on the debtor's assets or whereabouts. As a cross-border issue, this may affect the smooth running of the European single market.

Debtor's assets: how to access to information

The search for the address of a debtor and information on his/her financial situation is often the starting point for enforcement proceedings. At national level, most EU countries mainly use two different systems for obtaining information:

  • systems for declaring the debtor's entire assets or at least a part of them, with a view to settling a claim;
  • search systems with specific information (registers).

Access to information: accelerating the process

In the Green Paper 'Effective enforcement of judgments in the European Union: the transparency of debtors' assets' the Commission recommends four kinds of measures to help the creditor obtain reliable information on the debtor's assets within a reasonable period of time.

Possible measures include:

  • drawing up a manual of national enforcement laws and practices containing all the sources of information, accessible in all EU countries, about a person's assets as well as the contact information of people who can obtain that information if access is limited, the costs of access and other relevant details;
  • increasing the information available and improving access to registers, including commercial registers, population registers, social security and tax registers. The specific rules of each EU country in the field of data protection as well as social and fiscal privacy should still however be considered;
  • enhancing exchange of information between enforcement authorities so that national enforcement bodies are able to directly access the (non-public) registers of other EU countries. Implementation of international instruments dealing with the exchange of information between national enforcement bodies may be an additional solution;
  • harmonising measures relating to the debtor's declaration, for example, through the introduction of a European Assets declaration, obliging the debtors to disclose all assets in the European area of justice. In this way, the transparency of the debtor's assets would not be limited by the territoriality of the enforcement proceedings.