The appropriate legal procedure for recognition of a debt and its collection depends on the amount of the debt.
In the case of debts of an amount equal to or lower than €15,000 there are two types of procedures that can be adopted, which legal regime is provided for, in Portuguese law, in the Decree-Law No. 269/98, of September 1st:
- Special Lawsuit for Compliance of Pecuniary Obligations Emerging from Contracts (Ação Especial para o Cumprimento de Obrigações Pecuniárias Emergentes de Contratos - AECOP);
- Injunction (Injunção).
The Special Lawsuit for Compliance of Pecuniary Obligations Emerging from Contracts, also known as AECOP, is a simple and quicker judicial procedure aimed at low-value debts (equal to or less than €15,000). In this procedure, there is no specific form required for the initial petition filed by the creditor or the eventual defense filed by the debtor. If the amount of the debt is less than or equal to €5,000, the parties don’t need to be represented by a lawyer.
In the petition, the creditor should briefly state their claim and the respective arguments. The debtor is summoned to file an opposition within 15 days, if the value of the lawsuit does not exceed the jurisdiction of the lower court, or within 20 days, in other cases.
If the debtor, once notified, does not file an opposition, the judge, with the value of a condemnatory decision, grants executive power to the petition, except in specific and properly justified cases.
If the debtor files an opposition, the procedure follows its terms, and a trial hearing takes place within 30 days.
An Injunction is a legal procedure with the purpose of giving executive force to a request aimed at demanding the compliance of pecuniary obligations arising from contracts with a value not exceeding €15,000, with the advantages of being quicker, simpler, and cheaper than judicial procedures.
The injunction request is filed directly by the creditor or by their lawyer, with the secretary of the court of the place of performance of the obligation or with the secretary of the court of the debtor's domicile. It can also be filed electronically.
Within 5 days, the debtor is notified to, within 15-20 days (depending on the claimed amount), pay the creditor the requested amount or to file an opposition to the claim. If, after being notified, the debtor does not file an opposition, an enforceable formula will be attached to the injunction request.
If the debtor files an opposition presenting their defense, the case is transferred to a court, and a Special Lawsuit for Compliance of Pecuniary Obligations (AECOP) is initiated.
In the case of debts of an amount higher than €15,000, the only procedure that can be adopted to collect the debt is to file a lawsuit.
This is a judicial procedure that may take longer and is considerably more expensive, in which both parties will have the opportunity to present their arguments, to discuss an agreement, and to participate in the trial, gathering evidence, and appointing witnesses.