Enforcing Contracts in


Below is a detailed summary of the efficiency of contract enforcement. It follows the evolution of a sale of goods dispute, tracking the time, cost and number of procedures involved from the moment the plaintiff files the lawsuit until actual payment.

This information was collected as part of the Doing Business project, which measures and compares regulations relevant to the life cycle of a small- to medium-sized domestic business in 189 economies. The most recent round of data collection was completed in June 2013.

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  • Court Name: Cotonou First Instance Court, Commercial Chamber
  • Claim Value LCU: 756120
  • City: Cotonou
Time (days) 795
Filing and service 30
Trial and judgment 450
Enforcement of judgment 315
Cost (% of claim) 64.7
Attorney cost (% of claim) 17.3
Court cost (% of claim) 36.5
Enforcement Cost (% of claim) 10.9
Procedures (number) 42
Filing and service
1      Plaintiff requests payment: Plaintiff or his lawyer asks Defendant orally or in writing to comply with the contract.
*      Plaintiff’s filing of summons and complaint: Plaintiff files his summons and complaint with the court, orally or in writing.
*      Plaintiff’s payment of court fees: Plaintiff pays court duties, stamp duties, or any other type of court fee.
2      Registration of court case: The court administration registers the lawsuit or court case. This includes assigning a reference number to the lawsuit or court case.
*      Assignment of court case to a judge: The court case is assigned to a specific judge through a random procedure, automated system, ruling of an administrative judge, court officer, etc.
3      Court scrutiny of summons and complaint: A judge examines Plaintiff's summons and complaint for formal requirements.
*      Arrangements for physical delivery of summons and complaint: Plaintiff takes whatever steps are necessary to arrange for physical service of process on Defendant, such as instructing a court officer or a (private) bailiff.
*      Mailing of summons and complaint: Court or process server, including (private) bailiff, mails summons and complaint to Defendant.
4      First attempt at physical delivery: A first attempt to physically deliver summons and complaint to Defendant is successful in the majority of cases.
5      Second attempt at physical delivery: If a first attempt was not successful, a second attempt to physically deliver the summons and complaint to Defendant is required by law or standard practice.
*      Proof of service: Plaintiff submits proof of service to court.
*      Application for pre-judgment attachment: Plaintiff submits an application in writing for the attachment of Defendant's property prior to judgment. (see assumption 5)
*      Decision on pre-judgment attachment: The judge decides whether to grant Plaintiff’s request for pre-judgment attachment of Defendant’s property and notifies Plaintiff and Defendant of the decision. This step may include requesting that Plaintiff submit guarantees or bonds to secure Defendant
6      Pre-judgment attachment.: Defendant's property is attached prior to judgment. Attachment is either physical or achieved by registering, marking, debiting or separating assets. (see assumption 5)
7      Report on pre-judgment attachment: Court enforcement officer or (private) bailiff issues and delivers a report on the attachment of Defendant’s property to the judge. (see assumption 5)
8      Hearing on pre-judgment attachment: A hearing takes place to resolve the question of whether Defendant’s assets can be attached prior to judgment. This process may include the submission of separate summons and petitions. (see assumption 5)
Trial and judgment
*      Defendant’s filing of preliminary exemptions: Defendant presents preliminary exemptions to the court. Preliminary exemptions differ from answers on the merits of the claim. Examples of preliminary exemptions are statute of limitations, jurisdictions, etc.
*      Plaintiff’s answer to preliminary exemptions: Plaintiff responds to the preliminary exemptions raised by Defendant.
9      Judge’s resolution on preliminary exemptions: Judge decides on preliminary exemptions separately from the merits of the case.
10      Defendant’s filing of defense or answer to Plaintiff’s claim: Defendant files a written pleading which includes his defense or answer on the merits of the case. Defendant's written answer may or may not include witness statements, expert statements, the documents Defendant relies on as evidence and the legal authori
11      Plaintiff’s written response to Defendant's defense or answer: Plaintiff responds to Defendant’s defense or answer with a written pleading. Plaintiff's answer may or may not include a witness statements or expert (witness) statements.
12      Filing of pleadings: Plaintiff and Defendant file written pleadings and submissions with the court and transmit copies of the written pleadings or submissions to one another. The pleadings may or may not include witness statements or expert (witness) statements.
13      Adjournments: Court procedure is delayed because one or both parties request and obtain an adjournment to submit written pleadings.
*      Court appointment of independent expert: Judge appoints, either at the parties' request or at his own initiative, an independent expert to decide whether the quality of the goods Plaintiff delivered to Defendant is adequate. (see assumption 6-b of this case)
14      Notification of court-appointment of independent expert: The court notifies both parties that the court is appointing an independent expert. (see assumption 6-b of this case)
*      Delivery of expert report by court-appointed expert: The independent expert appointed by the court delivers his or her expert report to the court. (see assumption 6-b of this case)
15      Pre-trial conference on procedure: The judge meets with the parties to discuss procedural issues (for example which applications and motions parties intend to file, which documents parties intend to rely on, what will be presented as evidence the oral hearing or trial, etc.)
16      Request for oral hearing or trial: Plaintiff applies for the date(s) for the oral hearing or trial.
*      Setting of date(s) for oral hearing or trial: The judge sets the date(s) for the oral hearing or trial.
17      Adjournments: Court proceedings are delayed because one or both parties request and obtain an adjournment to prepare for the oral hearing or trial.
18      Oral hearing (prevalent in civil law): The parties argue the merits of the case at an oral hearing before the judge. Witnesses and a court-appointed independent expert may be heard and questioned at the oral hearing.
19      Adjournments: Court proceedings are delayed because one or both parties request and obtain an adjournment during the oral hearing or trial, resulting in an additional or later trial or hearing date.
*      Request for closing of the evidence period: Plaintiff or Defendant requests the judge to close the evidence period.
20      Closing of the evidence period: The court makes the formal decision to close the evidence period.
21      Order for submission of final arguments: The judge sets the deadline for the submission of final factual and legal arguments.
*      Final arguments: The parties present their final factual and legal arguments to the court either by oral presentation or by a written submission.
22      Judgment date: The judge sets a date for delivery of the judgment.
23      Notification of judgment in court: The parties are notified of the judgment at a court hearing.
24      Writing of judgment: The judge produces a written copy of the judgment.
25      Registration of judgment: The court office registers the judgment after receiving a written copy of the judgment.
26      Court notification of availability of the written judgment: The court notifies the parties that the written judgment is available at the courthouse.
27      Plaintiff's receipt of a copy of written judgment: Plaintiff receives a copy of the written judgment.
28      Notification of Defendant of judgment: Plaintiff or court formally notifies the Defendant of the judgment. The appeal period starts to run the day the Defendant is formally notified of the judgment.
29      Appeal period: By law, Defendant has the opportunity to appeal the judgment during a period specified in the law. Defendant decides not to appeal. Judgment becomes final the day the appeal period ends.
30      Reimbursement by Defendant of Plaintiff's court fees: The judgment obliges Defendant to reimburse Plaintiff for the court fees Plaintiff has advanced, because Defendant has lost the case.
Enforcement of judgment
*      Plaintiff’s hiring of lawyer: Plaintiff hires a lawyer to enforce the judgment or continues to be represented by a lawyer during the enforcement of judgment phase.
31      Plaintiff's approaching of court enforcement officer or (private) bailiff to enforce the judgment: To enforce the judgment, Plaintiff approaches a court enforcement officer such as a court bailiff or sheriff, or a private bailiff.
32      Plaintiff’s advancement of enforcement fees: Plaintiff pays the fees related to the enforcement of the judgment.
33      Attachment of enforcement order to judgment: The judge attaches the enforcement order (‘seal’) to the judgment.
*      Delivery of enforcement order: The court's enforcement order is delivered to a court enforcement officer or a (private) bailiff.
*      Plaintiff’s request for physical enforcement: As Plaintiff fears that Defendant might physically resist the attachment of its movable goods, Plaintiff addresses a request to the judge or to the police authorities to obtain police assistance during the attachment of Defendant's movable goods.
34      Request to Defendant to comply voluntarily with judgment: Plaintiff, a court enforcement officer or a (private) bailiff requests Defendant to voluntarily comply with the judgment, giving Defendant a last chance to comply voluntarily with the judgment.
35      Plaintiff’s identification of Defendant's assets for attachment: Plaintiff identifies Defendant's assets for attachment.
36      Attachment: Defendant’s movable goods are attached (physically or by registering, marking or separating assets).
37      Enforcement disputes before court: The enforcement of the judgment is delayed because Defendant opposes aspects of the enforcement process before the judge.
38      Call for public auction: The judge calls a public auction by, for example, advertising or publication in the newspapers.
39      Sale through public auction: The Defendant’s movable property is sold at public auction.
40      Distribution of proceeds: The proceeds of the public auction are distributed to various creditors (including Plaintiff), according to the rules of priority.
41      Reimbursement of Plaintiff’s enforcement fees: Defendant reimburses Plaintiff's enforcement fees which Plaintiff had advanced previously.
42      Payment: Court orders that the proceeds of the public auction or the direct sale be delivered to Plaintiff.
* Not counted in the total number of procedures

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