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Payment periods: a European directive lays down new rules

It is not the EU’s first attempt to tackle the issue of late payment. Directive 2011/7 / EU, adopted on 16 February by the European Parliament and the Council, replaced Directive 2000/35 / EC of 29 June 2000. The latter, considered too limited, established a right to late payment interest as from 30 days after the invoice date (unless otherwise stipulated in the contract), without however harmonizing payment periods between businesses and public authorities.

Principle: 30 days for everyone

The main new measure: Directive 2011/7 / EU places companies and public authorities on an equal footing. Now public authorities are also subject to a payment period in commercial transactions of a maximum of 30 days (Article 4.1). The new directive provides for several exceptions however. Thus, public undertaking type establishments, public hospitals and health facilities are given the option of extending the payment period to 60 days (Article 4.4 a and b).

In relation to inter-company business relations, the common law period is 30 days from the date of receipt of goods or the provision of services (Article 3.3). At the same time, contractual freedom is reaffirmed. The companies may agree between them on a payment period of 60 days or more. The new directive specifies however that the extension stipulated by contract shall not constitute an abuse for the creditor (Article 3.5, consideration 13).