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In our digital age, where communication via apps and electronic means has become the norm, it is essential to be aware of the legal impact of written words. In this article, we shed light on the judgment of the Court of Gelderland dated May 31, 2023 (ECLI:NL:RBGEL:2023:3152), in which app-based communication played a key role.

The Dispute

On March 20, 2021, both parties signed an agreement regarding a debt of €17,000. This debt was divided into two parts: €9,000 for ‘Debt 1’ and €8,000 for ‘Debt 2’. The debt was to be repaid in monthly installments of €250, with no interest. The agreement also included conditions for immediate enforceability in various scenarios.

From April 2021 to December 2021, the defendant made nine payments of €250 to the plaintiff. However, starting in January 2022, the defendant ceased her monthly payments, leading to the legal proceedings.

The Claim and the Defense

The plaintiff sought payment of the remaining amount of €10,750, plus statutory interest from January 1, 2022, and extrajudicial costs. His position was that the defendant no longer complied with the agreed payment obligation, rendering the entire debt immediately due.

The defendant contested the claim, asserting that on April 30, 2021, the plaintiff had forgiven the remaining amount of €10,750. She referred to an audio recording and a text message in which the plaintiff stated that he didn’t want the money back, and she should focus on her business.

The Assessment

The dispute focusses on whether the plaintiff had indeed waived his right to claim, as the defendant argued. Article 6:160 of the Dutch Civil Code (DCC) stipulates that an obligation can be extinguished by an agreement in which the creditor waives its right to claim.

The defendant supported her position with evidence, such as an audio recording of a conversation in which the plaintiff expressed his intention to forgive her debt and a text message in which he indicated that she didn’t need to repay the money. Although these statements were not formally documented in a signed contract, the court ruled that these declarations constituted an offer of waiver and that the defendant had not immediately rejected this offer. As a result, the payment obligation ceased to exist under Article 6:160 BW, and the plaintiff’s claim was dismissed.

Conclusion

This legal case underscores the importance of caution in your written communication through apps and other electronic means. Even informal communication can have legal consequences. It is crucial to understand that electronic communication can be used as evidence in legal disputes. Therefore, it is advisable to be mindful and careful when composing messages, both personally and professionally, to avoid undesired legal consequences. In the event of legal disputes, seeking legal advice is also advisable to protect your rights and interests. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Angela Schwegler at a.schwegler@valegis.com.

Angela Schwegler-Veldstra

Angela studeerde cum laude af aan de Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam en is sinds 2016 advocaat. Zij heeft zich bij een middelgroot advocatenkantoor in Amsterdam gespecialiseerd binnen het ondernemingsrecht in brede zin.

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