Spain – The agent’s right to information after the conclusion of his contract

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Time to read: 5 min

The commercial agent has the right to obtain certain information about the sales of the principal. The Spanish Law on Agency Contracts provides (15.2 LCA) that the agent has the right to demand to see the accounts of the principal in order to verify all matters relating to the commissions due to him. And also, to be provided with the information available to the principal and necessary to verify the amount of such commissions.

This article is in line with the 1986 Commercial Agents Directive, according to which (12.3) the agent is entitled to demand to be provided with all information at the disposal of the principal, particularly an extract from the books of account, which is necessary to verify the amount of commission due to the agent. This may not be altered to the detriment of the commercial agent by agreement.

The question is, does this right remain even after the termination of the agency contract? In other words: once the agency contract is terminated, can the agent request the information and documentation mentioned in these articles and is the Principal obliged to provide it?

In our opinion, the rule does not say anything that limits this right, rather the opposite is to be expected. Therefore, to the extent that there is still any possible commission that may arise from such verification, the answer must be yes. Let us see.

The right to demand the production of accounts exists so that the agent can verify the amount of commissions. And the agent is entitled to commissions for acts and operations concluded during the term of the contract (art. 12 LCA), but also for acts or operations concluded after the termination of the contract (art. 13 LCA), and for operations not carried out due to circumstances attributable to the principal (art. 17 LCA). In addition, the agent is entitled to have the commission accrued at the time when the act or transaction should have been executed (art. 14 LCA).

All these transactions can take place after the conclusion of the contract. Consider the usual situation where orders are placed during the contract but are accepted or executed afterwards. To reduce the agent’s right to be informed only during the term of the contract would be to limit his entitlement to the corresponding commission unduly. And it should be borne in mind that the amount of the commissions during the last five years may also influence the calculation of the client (goodwill) indemnity (art. 28 LCA), so that the agent’s interest in knowing them is twofold: what he would receive as commission, and what could increase the basis for future indemnity.

This has been confirmed, for example, by the Provincial Court (Audiencia Provincial) of Madrid (AAP 227/2017, of 29 June [ECLI:ES:APM:2017:2873A]) which textually states:

[…] art. 15.2 of the Agency Contract Act provides for the right of the agent to demand the exhibition of the Principal’s accounts in the particulars necessary to verify everything relating to the commissions corresponding to him, as well as to be provided with the information available to the Principal and necessary to verify the amount. This does not prevent, […], the agency contract having already been terminated, as this does not imply that commissions would cease to accrue for policies, contracted with the mediation of the agent, which remain in force.

The question then arises as to whether this right to information is unlimited in time. And here the answer would be in the negative. The limitation of the right to receive information would be linked to the statute of limitations of the right to claim the corresponding commission. If the right to receive the commission were undoubtedly time-barred, it could be argued that it would not be possible to receive information about it. But for such an exception, the statute of limitations must be clear, therefore, taking into account possible interruptions due to claims, even extrajudicial ones. In case of doubt, it will be necessary to recognise the right to demand the information, without prejudice to later invoking and recognising the impossibility of claiming the commission if the right is time-barred. And for this we must consider the limitation period for claiming commissions (in general, three years) and that of the right to claim compensation for clientele (one year).

In short: it does not seem that the right to receive information and to examine the principal’s documentation is limited by the term of the agency contract; although, on the other hand, it would be appropriate to analyse the possible limitation period for claiming commissions. In the absence of a clear answer to this question, the right to information should, in our opinion, prevail, without prejudice to the fact that the result may not entitle the claim because it is time-barred.

Ignacio Alonso
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