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EXPERTISE |WCO & Guidance with the trade investigation department

WCO procedures

Are you a freelancer or do you lead a company, and do you experience difficulties threatening the continuity of your commercial activities? The WCO (“Enterprise Continuity Act”) procedure might offer you a solution.

The WCO procedure is a procedure before the Chamber of Commerce the aim of which is to save companies in difficulty – which have sufficient potential – from bankruptcy.

Enterprise Continuity Law and claimants

As soon as you file the petition with the clerk of court, you enjoy protection from your claimants. This specifically entails that the stream of bailiffs and attachments can be stopped almost immediately.
This protection for a number of months offer you the breathing space needed for finding a structural and sustainable solution in the form of:

  • an amicable agreement: this being an agreement with at least two claimants (WCO type 1); or
  • a collective agreement: this being an agreement on a reorganisation plan to be voted on by all of the claimants (WCO type 2); or
  • a transfer under legal authority of the entire or part of the company or its activities (WCO type 3 or GROGG).

Where an amicable agreement is suitable for companies experiencing difficulties with a limited number of (nevertheless major) claimants, a collective agreement will preferably be required with companies that, over the course of the years, have built up an irreconcilable historical liability.

In the case of a transfer under legal authority, the court appoints a legal representative who will realise the transfer. Transfer under legal authority is primarily employed for transferring non-profitable activities to a going concern. The sale price is used to pay the claimants.
If a threat to the continuity of your activities arises, we will check for you whether or not the conditions for a WCO procedure are fulfilled, and what solution best suits your specific situation. Over the entire procedure, we defend your interests before the court and are by your side with practical legal advice. A close collaboration between you as a company, your accountants and Vanhoucke Law as a lawyer is essential for bringing this complex procedure to the desired conclusion.

You are summoned by the trade investigation department. What now?

The trade investigation department with the Commercial Court was created for the purpose of detecting traders and companies in difficulty. The clerk of the Commercial Court gathers all kinds of information – information – giving an indication of companies in difficulty.

Among other things, this information relates to companies no longer able to pay their bills, that have failed to pay their social security contributions, VAT or advanced levies for two quarters, or that have been found guilty in absentia or in judgments relating to an undisputed debt. However, if after the summons and dealing with the file, the judge is of the opinion that the bankruptcy conditions have been met – and no WCO procedure was, in the meantime, commenced – the judge may refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service with a view to being served a writ of bankruptcy.

We research the confidential file for you at the trade investigation department, and specifically the issue.

In consultation with your financial advisers, we then provide appropriate legal advice – which steps still have to be taken before appearing, what options there are for ensuring the continuity of the trade activity in the short and long term, or for terminating the activities in a controlled manner. In consultation with your financial advisers, we prepare the required documentation in view of the appearance at the department, and, of course, guide you during the eventual appearance.

Vanhoucke Law is happy to assist, should you require any legal advice and/or guidance.

Please get in touch with us. We help you work toward your interests.