The European Court of Justice ruled that the obligation to draw up cross-border invoices exclusively in a particular language (under penalty of nullity) is incompatible with EU legislation.
Until now, Flemish language legislation prohibited companies established in the Flemish region from drafting their invoices in a language other than Dutch (Dutch being the official language of the Flemish region), even if the invoices were addressed to a customer abroad. Invoices drafted in another language were to be considered null and void.
This caused many problems for companies established in Flanders since their customers abroad (in a non-Dutch-speaking area) do not understand such invoices, and could consequently refuse to pay them. As a result – in practice – the Flemish language legislation was not observed by many companies, thus leading to legal insecurity. This means that invoices – often the only recording of the agreement on the service or goods to be delivered and price to be paid – could at any time be declared null and void.
The European Court of Justice has now ruled that this Flemish language legislation for cross-border invoices is incompatible with the European rules on the free movement of goods and services (clause 35 of the EU Treaty dated 13 December 2007) – case C-15/15.
This court decision makes it now possible for companies established in the Flemish region to invoice their customers in the language of the customer, without having to worry about the validity of such invoices.