The partial amendment of the Land Transport Law for the purpose of combating late payment in the field of road freight transport by application of the content of Law 13/2021, of 1 October, arose, among other reasons, from the need to solve the problem of late payment of commercial transactions in Spain, which amounts, let us remember, to an average of 90 days and is therefore in breach of the European regulations applicable to these transactions.
With effect from 3 October 2021 and on the general basis that any agreement on payment terms longer than 60 days can be considered null and void, even in companies belonging to the same group, this law creates a new type of offence providing for penalties for those cases in which the legal maximum payment limit is not respected and therefore does not comply with the provisions of Law 13/2021 (article 4) and the Land Transport Law (article 140).
Having said that, we can currently state that this regulation is already having tangible practical consequences, as in Aiyon we have had several consultations related to administrative sanctioning proceedings initiated by the General Directorate of Land Transport against road transport companies, in their capacity as subcontractors of land transport with other effective carriers.
Thus, following inspections carried out locally by the Administration in certain land transport companies, it has been observed that their contractors did not pay the invoices issued for their services within this 60-day period, which is why the inspection has initiated infringement proceedings against the debtors, warning them of this breach of the applicable regulations.
Administrative sanctioning proceedings which, although they can be defended, do not leave much room for refuting the position of the administrative inspector since, when this legal limit is exceeded within the different parameters for calculating the sixty days, little can be said in defence of the debtor’s position.
The fact that there is an agreement, express or implied, between the two carriers involved to relax this time limit upwards, or that there is a prior dispute between shipper and contract carrier that prevents the contract carrier from charging for the carriage, which could be considered a reason to condition the payment of its service to the actual carrier, we do not consider these to be valid excuses in law to justify the use of a longer payment period.
Once the accounts of a transport company have been randomly inspected, or after a complaint by the creditor, the Directorate General for Land Transport will notify those companies that have paid invoices outside the legal deadline of the initiation of the corresponding sanctioning procedure against them, proposing penalties which, in our experience, have ranged between € 2, 001.00 and € 3,000.00 (depending on different factors such as the excess over 60 days, the number of invoices pending payment, etc.), being classified as very serious offences under the Land Transport Law.
In view of the above, it is important to remind operators of the importance of respecting this regulation and of always regularising outstanding payments to road hauliers within the non-mandatory legal deadline (60 days), establishing internally adequate measures to avoid being sanctioned now or in the future.