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Belarus; Russia: Additional Measures to Improve Debt Collection

(Dec. 2, 2015) On November 28, 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law amendments to varied legal acts addressing procedures for collecting debts owed by non-bona-fide debtors. (Federal Law No. 340-FZ on Amending the Federal Law on Enforcement Proceedings and Select Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation (Nov. 28, 2015), PRAVO.GOV.RU (official publication) (in Russian).)

According to the Law, which will enter into force on January 15, 2016, and may affect up to 300,000 Russian citizens, individuals who owe more than RUB10,000 (about US$300 at the time when the Law was originally proposed) in child support payments or who did not pay fines for parking and traffic violations on time will have their licenses to operate motor vehicles and air- and watercraft suspended. (Federal Law No. 340-FZ-6, art. 2; State Duma Passed the Law Suspending Driver Licenses of Deadbeat Fathers, TASS.RU (Nov. 17, 2015) (in Russian).) A government official responsible for collecting fines and executing judicial orders will also be authorized to apply this Law in situations involving debt originating from a person ignoring payments ordered by courts in tort cases; reimbursement for property damage; or compensation for moral damage, pain, and suffering.  (Federal Law No. 340-FZ-6, art. 3.)

The Law will not apply to disabled persons or to those for whom the license suspension will result in losing their only source of income. (Id.)  License suspensions will be extended up to one year if a debtor operates a vehicle without the license.  Additionally, persons who operate vehicles without licenses can be ordered to serve 50 hours of community service in order to have their licenses restored.  (Id.)

As prescribed by the Law, a person has to receive written notification of the forthcoming suspension at the place officially registered as his or her official residence. If a debt is not paid within the following five days of receipt of the notice, the individual will be informed in person that his or her license is suspended.  The license will be restored the day after the debt is paid.  Russian commentators have expressed doubt that this process will work effectively, because often people do not live at the places where they are formally registered, the debt collection services are understaffed, and it is difficult to get in touch with the officials. (Law on Suspending Licenses for Not Paying Alimony Is Passed, CURRENTTIME.TV (Nov. 17, 2015) (in Russian).)

Belarus

Reportedly, similar measures were recommended by the Belarus Ministry of Justice. As Belarus’s Deputy Minister of Justice stated, mobile phone services and Internet access will be cut off to those who are late in paying bank loans, alimony, fines, and other mandatory payments.  Per government requests, telecom and Internet service providers will be required to terminate service agreements with individuals identified as being behind in making such payments.  Another government proposal provides for seizure of purchases made by debtors online and shipped to them from abroad.  (Tatiana Melnichuk, In Belarus, Debtors Will Be Banned from the Internet, BBC Russian Service (July 29, 2015) (in Russian).)