Beware of yellow envelope: Garnishment in Germany

by Daniel A. Lauretano and Nina Boehres
Client Services & Policy Division
Receiving a yellow envelope in the German mail usually signals garnishment.

It has happened to some. You place an order and purchase an item through the Internet, or receive a service or medical treatment from a local national physician or medical clinic, and then you receive an invoice requesting payment a few days later, but in the hectic hustle and bustle of everyday life you forget to pay before the deadline.
Reminders to pay may or may not reach your mailbox or APO box. Eventually, your case is referred to a local collection agency and you may receive a warning letter demanding payment of the amount owed, plus fees, including attorney’s fees. The fees are sometimes greater than the amount owed.
In the event you forget to pay, or somehow the invoice, reminder to pay, or warning letter from a collection agency never reaches you, never ignore the yellow envelop, especially if the document in the yellow envelope is either a Mahnbescheid or a Vollstreckungsbescheid. Both documents are orders issued by a German court at the request of the creditor, but one is more serious than the other.
A Mahnbescheid, just like the Vollstreckungsbescheid, is a double-sided, large-format document that is either sent in a yellow envelope with proof of delivery by the German Post Office, or personally served to you by the command or someone within the USAREUR-AF OJA International Law Division.
It bears the heading Mahnbescheid in the middle of the double-sided page. In addition to the original claim of the creditor, the Mahnbescheid will also list associated fees to process, including attorney’s fees of the creditor or a commissioned debt collection company.
Additionally, other fees will be listed (e.g., application and issuance of the Mahnbescheid, and all other costs (admin and late fees). Very often these fees far exceed the amount originally owed.
If you do not resolve the Mahnbescheid, your creditor can request a Vollstreckungsbescheid from the Court which is the equivalent of an enforcement order. If the Vollstreckungsbescheid is not appealed within the statutory period, the Vollstreckungsbescheid automatically comes into effect and there is no legal remedy.
A Vollstreckungsbescheid, just like the Mahnbescheid, will list many additional fees separate from the original amount owed.

If you receive a Yellow Envelope containing a Mahnbescheid or a Vollstreckungsbescheid, or are not sure how to react to a warning letter, make an appointment to see a legal assistance attorney by emailing us at: