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Pre-action letter and issuing civil claim against debtor in Germany

If you have a claim against a person or a business who are based in Germany and who are unwilling to pay, you will in many cases have to take that debtor to court in Germany, unless you have been able to agree your own country as place of jurisdiction in a contract (which is not quite that easy to do, especially in consumer contracts).

So, when trying to collect your unpaid claim from the German debtor, you will have to follow the German civil procedure rules. I have explained those rules in this brochure which is available as free PDF download here: www.crosschannellawyers.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/GrafLegal-Guide-to-German-Civil-LItigation-UK-version-1.pdf

Court costs and legal fees in Germany

German law provides for strict rules regarding civil litigation court fees and minimum lawyer fees to be paid by the claimant. All German litigation lawyers are bound by the Rechtsanwaltsvergütungsgesetz, RVG (Act on Lawyer Remuneration) and their statutory legal fee charts (Kostentabelle).

The idea is that German litigators shall not be permitted to undercut each other with “low fee offers” or even “contingency fee offers” (in German referred to as “Erfolgshonorar”) in order to attract clients in litigation cases. German law sees this “low fee” client acquisition approach as undesireable, because:

(i) the lawyers who would do this cannot devote the necessary resources and attention to the matter, which would in turn lead to poor legal services rendered by these “cheap bargain lawyers”; and

(ii) the lawyer who works for a small or even no fee for his/her client would be tempted to do everything in their power to win the matter, because only then the lawyer would be adequately compensated. This, again, is seen by German law as an undesireable incentive to apply unethical beviour, i.e. – to put it bluntly – lie in court, hide or tamper with evidence, be overly aggressive etc.

Thus, every client who hires a German litigation lawyer will have to pay at least the rates according to the RVG. No-win no-fee agreements with German lawyers are usually unlawful and very dangerous for the German lawyer. More on this here:

No Win No Fee Agreements are Void in Germany


Online litigation cost calculator for German court and lawyer fees

An online process cost calculator in English language is available here: www.foris.com/en/litigation-costs-calculator/ 

Depending on the value and the complexity of the case, top litigators in Germany will, of course, charge higher rates than these minimum RVG legal fees, especially in business litigation matters and where the defendant vehemently disputes the claim.

The costs for a pre-action letter of claim in Germany can be negotiated with the German lawyer. Unless the matter is extremely complex and/or requires immediate action (like preliminary injunctions or urgent cease and desist letters), the lawyer fees for such letter should probably not exceed EUR 5,000 net.

More information on litigation and legal fees in Germany is available in these posts:

The law firm Graf & Partners was established in 2003 and is a renowned boutique with proven expertise in international litigation, in particular UK-German business disputes. Managing partner Bernhard Schmeilzl LL.M. (Leicester) is both a fully qualified litigation lawyer in Germany (admitted to the Munich bar and practicing throughout Germany) and also a well sought after consultant when it comes to litigation in England and Wales. He is the author of the only German language practice guide on Civil Procedure Rules in England & Wales:

Zivilprozess in England - German language guide on Civil procedure Rules in England

For more in-depth information on German civil procedure rules also see our expert law blog: