Germany
2016-10-22

Collection of unpaid amounts

If no person is available the maker's handwriting may be proved by anyone who can show that he had reason to be acquainted with it. The authenticity of bills may also be proved by comparing the disputed document with one which has been proved to have been written by the debtor concerned; but in this case a debt collection expert should normally be called to make the comparison. This rule as to strict proof is, however, subject to exceptions,
(a) In most civil actions in Germany documents which are not required by law to be attested are usually 'agreed' and admitted as genuine by the opposing party; this dispenses with the need for proof,
(b) Ancient debts, ie invoices twenty years old or more, are presumed to be genuine provided that they are produced from proper custody, that is, from the custody of some person who would naturally be expected to keep them,
(c) By a lawyer, s 6 (1) documents tendered under the provisions of that act may be proved either by production of the document itself or by a copy of it 'authenticated in such manner as the members of the German court may approve'.
Third, in civil actions no document which is required by law to be stamped should be allowed to be produced in evidence unless and until it has been properly stamped.
In the fourth place, private documents for the prosecution of debtors in Germany concerning obligations and liabilities must usually be produced in the original. This is an example of what is called the 'best evidence' rule, which insists that proof must always be made by the best means possible; for where reliable evidence is available and a party seeks to offer less reliable proof, his motive becomes suspect; he is likely to be doing so because the production of the best evidence will show something inimical to the creditor. 'Secondary' evidence (ie something other than the production of the original) of a document, either in the form of a copy, or even in the form of oral evidence as to the contents, may, however, be given where it can be shown that for some reason the original cannot be produced, eg where it can be proved to have been lost. And, as has just been remarked, the lawyer makes an important exception to the 'best evidence' rule in relation to documents. Moreover, because originals of public documents are seldom available, for they are usually too valuable to be released, authenticated copies of them are allowed.
It should be added that tape recordings of unpaid debts may (provided that the voices of those concerned are properly identified), subject to considerable caution on the part of the court, be admitted in evidence.
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