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n Tydskrif vir die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg - Schuldsanering voor particulieren in België - beschouwingen bij tien jaar "collectieve schuldenregeling"
De Belgische collectieve schuldenregeling is tien jaar oud. De regeling werd, door de op 1 Januari 1999 in werking getreden wet van 5 Juli 1998 betreffende de collectieve schuldenregeling en de mogelijkheid van de verkoop uit de hand van de in beslag genomen onroerende goederen, in het Gerechtelijk Wetboek verankerd. De wetgever had met de collectieve schuldenregeling een tweeledig doel voor ogen. Enerzijds het aanreiken van een "fresh start" - in de vorm van een menswaardig leven - aan zij die het hoofd niet meer kunnen bieden aan een overmatige schuldenlast. Anderzijds ervoor te zorgen dat deze schuldenaren - in de mate van het mogelijke - hun schulden alsnog kunnen aanzuiveren.
Some considerations of the years of collective debt settlement fro consumers in Belgium
On 1 January 1999 the Belgian act of 5 July 1998 on collective debt settlement entered into force. For the debtor who faces excessive debts, the Belgian legislator has created a procedure that allows him to redress his financial situation and at the same time offers him, as well as his family, a fresh start. The procedure was modified by two statutes of 13 December 2005.
The objective of this article is to familiarize the South African reader with this procedure. The purpose is not a technical analysis, but an insight into the pros and cons of the system. The authors also analyze the social choices made by the Belgian legislator in creating a collective debt settlement device. The point of departure is a 2003 study on Consumer Over indebtedness and Consumer Law in the European Union. The conclusion of this (comparative) report is the formulation of some recommended principles with which every reliable curative collective debt settlement device for consumers should comply. This article tests the conformity of the Belgian device with these principles.
Belgian law has a legitimate and solidary collective debt settlement device for consumers. The act of 5 July 1998, which provides an objective and subjective condition, establishes broad access to the procedure. The procedure also contains a complete or partial remission of debt. Besides the paying back of debts, a (amicable or judicial) settlement plan also can provide for accompanying measures (eg budgetary control) that try to concretize the idea of a fresh start.
With respect to the settlement plan, the Belgian legislator prefers an amicable plan. This is a plan proposed by the debt mediator (in most cases an attorney) to the debtor and the creditors. Because of its amicable nature, the features of this plan can be very broad. Only when an amicable solution cannot be reached will the judge impose a (more restricted) settlement plan.
An important aspect of the Belgian procedure is the high level of protection it affords to the goods and the income of the debtor. This undoubtedly has to do with guaranteeing a dignified existence for the debtor and his family and achieving the objective of a fresh start. To protect the creditors (and, by extension, society) the settlement plan has to provide for a remission of debt within a reasonable timespan. The law establishes a time limit of five years in respect of a judicial plan only. In some exceptional cases - and especially to guarantee the aforementioned dignified existence - this time limit may be extended.
The authors note that the Belgian procedure has evolved over the last ten years, and conclude that its success in practice depends not only on the quality of the legislative framework, but also on the cooperation and commitment of all participants. In this respect an important role is reserved for the debt mediator, a key player in the procedure.
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