The Swiss Federal Debt Collection and Bankruptcy Act (SchKG) stipulates how a creditor should take action against a debtor who is unwilling to pay, from the summons to pay through to enforcement in the form of attachments or bankruptcy proceedings. Whilst contract law, maintenance law and administrative law generally answer the question of whether and how much money is owed to a person, the SchKG answers the question of how this money should be retrieved. Around three million summons to pay are issued in Switzerland every year, a fact which says (almost) everything about this material’s practical relevance.
Debt collection and bankruptcy law is an interdisciplinary issue with links to virtually all other fields of law. Tax liabilities, rent arrears, transport fines, remuneration entitlements, compensation for damages: all of these debts must ultimately be collected in accordance with SchKG regulations. Whilst the SchKG governs the ‘how’ of debt enforcement, it is down to civil procedure to determine whether there in fact is any entitlement subject to foreclosure. One particular specificity of the Swiss system is the fact that enforcement may be triggered by way of a summons to pay before this determination is made. Anyone who receives such a summons to pay has thus blotted their creditworthiness copy book, in the form of an entry in the debt collection register, which then generally means that any thoughts of renting a flat or concluding a hire-purchase agreement go out of the window! In the lecture on the SchKG, students learn how this entry can be removed – not an entirely easy undertaking. The chair of Roberto Rodriguez is generally interested in demonstrating the close relationship between this content (which admittedly seems rather ‘bloodless’ at first glance) and a wide variety of professional and private everyday situations, and thus boost understanding of this field of law.