Comments on Spanish Law 13/2021, of 1st October, on combating late payment in the carriage of goods by road

On 2 October 2021, the Act 13/2021 was published in the Official State Journal, which amends the Land Transport Act to combat late payment in the field of land freight transport; this regulation came into force one day after its publication.

The need for this regulation arises from the fact that in Spain the average payment term for commercial transactions is 90 days, well above the European average, and that the existing asymmetry between the parties to the land transport contract may generate possible situations of unfair competition in the regulatory framework regulating the activity.

In order to correct this situation, a new type of infringement has been created under this new law, which will penalize cases in which transport prices are paid more than sixty days in advance (payment terms of more than 60 days were already void according to pre-existing regulations).

Two new infringements are created: a very serious one, in the event that the price of the transport exceeds EUR 3,000 and another serious one when it is less than or equal to EUR 3,000.

The regulation establishes a scale of penalties depending on the price of transport, ranging from a minimum fine of EUR 401 to a maximum of EUR 6,000, which, in the even of a repeated offence, may be increased to a maximum of EUR 18,000, with aggravated fines of up to EUR 30,000.

For dissuasive purposes, the regulation contemplates the possibility of publishing the sanctioning resolutions imposed for incurring in very serious infringements.

The regulation does not establish when the maximum period of 60 days starts to be calculated, and although it is most likely to begin with the provision of the service (delivery of the goods at destination), the alternative would be that this period would be calculated from the issuance of the invoice for which the carrier has a maximum period of 15 days from the date of transport/delivery of the goods at destination.

The offending party may be any type of company that owes the price of a transport (even a carrier in the case of subcontracting), regardless of whether the creditor company is a carrier or not. To this effect, it must be taken into account that in the case of subcontracting for transport between companies belonging to the same group, these will also be considered as offending parties and will have to face the corresponding penalties in the event of not complying with the maximum payment term.

It will not be necessary for the creditors to denounce the non-payment of the transport price, that is, the Administration will act ex officio, and we assume that it will be by the inspectors of the Ministry of Transport within the inspections they perform in the transport companies. Although it seems that the sense of this amendment is to support and facilitate the collection of the transport price by the carriers, it is also true that this makes it unlikely that it will be applied to foreign clients of Spanish carriers.

The regulation does not apply retroactively, that is, to transports carried out prior to October 3, 2021.