By decree of 18 March 2020 for the first time the Federal Council declared a legal standstill in accordance with Art. 62 SchKG, starting on 19 March 2020, 7:00 a.m., and ending on 4th April 2020. Since there is a break in debt collection from 5 April to 19 April 2020 anyway, the legal standstill will last until 19 April 2020 (cf. Art. 56 No. 2 SchKG). 

Vacations on debt collection and standstill of legal proceedings do not prevent the standstill of time. If, however, the end of a time limit falls within the legal standstill, the time limit is extended until the third day after the end of the legal standstill or the debt enforcement vacations, i.e. until 22 April 2020 (cf. Art. 63 SchKG).

The provisions on closed periods, debt collection vacations and legal standstill in accordance with Art. 56 et seq. of the Swiss Federal debt collection act are aimed at debt collection officers and all other authorities that have a decisive influence on the course of debt collection. Accordingly, the enforcement authorities also include bankruptcy officials, judges in bankruptcy and bankruptcy proceedings, and their supervisory authorities.

It is important to note that during this period, debt collection activities are prohibited. In BGE 115 III 6 E.5, the Federal Supreme Court described debt collection acts as “all acts of the enforcement authorities – debt enforcement and bankruptcy officials, supervisory authorities, judges in bankruptcy and the opening of proceedings – which are aimed at initiating or continuing proceedings aimed at satisfying the creditor by means of enforcement out of the debtor’s assets and which interfere with the legal position of the debtor (…)”.

In order to determine whether a particular provision constitutes an act of debt collection, it is necessary to ask whether debt collection is being brought to an advanced stage. The central question is thus whether an act brings the creditor/operator closer in his goal (see BGE 115 III 6 E.5 and BGE 121 III 284 E. 2a).

If an act of debt collection is carried out during the debt collection vacations or during the legal standstill, the validity of the untimely act of debt collection is postponed – apart from cases of nullity and contestability. Accordingly, the debt collection action shall be deemed to have been taken on the first day after the expiry of the standstill. However, due to this time component, the act is neither null and void nor contestable.

Not to be counted as debt collection actions are the requests of the creditor, such as the debt collection or legal opening request. While the issuing of the order for payment by the debt collection office does not constitute an act of debt collection, the order for payment may not be served to the debtor during a legal standstill or a vacation period for debt collection (cf. Art. 69 para. 1 SchKG and Art. 71 para. 1 SchKG). This also prevents a sudden overloading of the debt collection offices after the legal standstill has expired, because the incoming debt collection requests enable them to process the payment orders to such an extent that they only need to be served. The issuing of the certificate of loss and the arrest proceedings also do not constitute debt collection actions.

Ultimately, the legal standstill does not change the existence of the debt claims. In particular, the legal standstill does not inhibit the flow of interest.