Debt Collection in the Caribbean: Five Items for Your Checklist

2013-12-28 06.39.57The Caribbean is different in many ways. I am not (only) referring to its stunning vegetation, white sandy beaches and its beautiful blue and turquoise waters.

The majority of the nations in the Caribbean have cultural and economic ties with Europe, the US or Latin American mainland (like Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela) but yet have their own social context, economy and lifestyle.

Also debt collection in the Caribbean has its own dynamics.

Here are five elements I would recommend you to keep on your checklist when you are in a situation where you are trying to collect a debt in the Caribbean.

Languages

There are almost as many languages in the Caribbean as there are nation states! I mention some of the main languages that are important from a business, professional and legal perspective: English, Spanish, French, Dutch, but also Papiamento and Creole languages.It is important to understand that depending on the island or the nation, one of these languages may apply and other might have little to no importance in daily affairs. Sometimes even on one island two languages apply but each in its respective section (an example is Saint Martin, which is divided in a French-speaking and a predominantly English and Dutch-speaking part).

Jurisdiction

Each of the nation states have their own jurisdiction. Some show similarities amongst each other – especially if they share a common historical background or if they are part of the same overseas nation or international organization (like the British Commonwealth). Others differ as much from each other as many of their (former) motherland countries do amongst each other. Some regions are fully independent and have their own jurisdiction; others are an integral part of (European) overseas nations (like Martinique which is a French overseas region and as such even part of the European Union; the British Virgin Islands which are a British overseas territory; or Bonaire which is a special municipality within the country of Netherlands, as opposed to Curaçao, which is an independent nation within the Kingdom of the Netherlands). The jurisdiction has its effect on legal systems and whether or not legal options might be a serious alternative for debt collection.

Possible offshore status

Several of the Caribbean nations are considered so-called Offshore Financial Centers (OFCs). Examples are the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Panama,and increasingly, Belize. This means that your claim may be on a company constituted in a Caribbean nation, whereby a trust company or fiduciary services provider manages that company, but whereby the actual decision makers or owners of the business are overseas. This has its impact on debt collection options and likelihood of success in claiming and enforcing payment, both amicably and legally.

Networking options

Networking in the Caribbean or working with local representatives, agents or lawyers is crucial and beneficial for you if you are looking to collect a debt in the Caribbean. Crucial because of the diversity between the Caribbean nations: as pointed out before, each nation has its own languages and jurisdiction. Beneficial because of the small size of the majority of the countries, which means that it can be relatively easy to reach your debtor quickly and directly (almost everybody knows each other or knows someone who knows…). Also, since Caribbean nations are generally small of size, and local business is heavily dependent on the outside world (financial services and tourism), service providers are international-minded which is helpful for you as an outsider.

Nature of your claim

As always, and the Caribbean is no exception, your chances of success are made or broken by the quality of your claim. Documentation much be in order, it should include signed contracts, order forms, invoices and filed correspondence. Also the size of the claim is important.

In order to successfully assess debt collection in the Caribbean you have to keep the following five elements on your checklist: languages, jurisdiction, possible offshore status, networking options and the nature of your claim.

If you are interested in learning more on the subject of debt collection in the Caribbean please connect on Linked-In or follow me on Twitter.

To participate in the conversation about debt collection in Latin America please join the Linked-In Group Debt Collection Latin America.

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