A recent European regulation permits applications to court for orders freezing bank accounts in various other European countries.

This relief is available before judgment proceedings are issued, in the course of proceedings and post-judgment.

A new European regulation permits court orders to freeze bank accounts in Europe to enable cross-border recovery of debts. The European Account Preservation Order (“EAPO”) Regulation came into effect on 18th January 2017 and applies in all EU Member States except the UK and Denmark.

This protective measure allows cross-border recovery in civil and commercial matters by permitting creditors in one member state to obtain an order to freeze the assets of debtors held in bank accounts in another participating member state, without having to seek a court order in that state too. The order is available as an alternative to existing measures under domestic law.

The relief is available before judgment proceedings are issued, in the course of proceedings and post-judgment.

The EAPO relates to all claims in civil and commercial matters in cross-border cases. However, it does not apply to Revenue matters or to debtors in insolvency proceedings.

The new procedure imposes a significant burden on banks to implement the resulting Preservation Order made by the court in a successful application. Banks will incur liability where they do not comply. The practical application of this provision is yet to be tested.

The EAPO also imposes certain obligations on the creditor, introduces various evidence requirements and allocates Information Authorities in each member state so that the court can ask that Authority for information on debtor’s bank accounts.

Applications are made to the court having jurisdiction for the debt or recovery proceedings. The application is made in the absence of the debtor and without notice. The Preservation Order will remain in force until it is revoked, implemented or terminated. It is expected that the court will make a decision quickly once an application is made.

Conclusion

The EAPO will undoubtedly benefit some creditors and there is bound to be some uncertainty until the new process is tested. It provides creditors with an alternative remedy and affords an opportunity for creditors to trace and secure a defendant’s assets in other Member States. However, very specific obligations placed on banks may result in implementation errors.

The requirement for security for pre-judgment orders may also diminish its appeal for some.