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Increase in claims against the Catalonian Health Service (CatSalut) for non-payment to pharmacies

| News | Public and Regulatory Law

The rulings in favour of individual claims are growing, and the Association of Pharmacists of Barcelona has one claim pending a ruling by the courts.

The individual claims for delayed payments of invoices to pharmacies by CatSalut are rising, according to the law firm Andersen Tax & Legal, located in Barcelona, which is currently processing 47 claims for an amount of 318,346 euros, of which 12 have already received a ruling. "Ten of them are favourable, with only one ruling against as the pharmacist was considered to have individual standing”, explains José Luis Aguilar, director of the firm.

He adds that “this might involve an unforeseen cost for the Regional Government of Catalonia, as it believed that pharmacists did not have individual standing, which has been refuted by the Courts”.

He believes that “most pharmacists will bring legal actions, which may be a very significant contingency against CatSalut as there are over 3000 pharmacies in Catalonia”, he adds.

One of the last rulings processed by the firm, handed down by Administrative Court 12 of Barcelona, establishes that “although the agreement was signed with the Board of the Associations of Pharmacists, the agreement itself establishes that it is the pharmacists that provide the service, and it must therefore be maintained that, for the purposes of demanding compliance with the agreement, the pharmacists are also contractors and, consequently, they may demand compliance with the contract and with applicable procurement legislation”.

The Association of Pharmacists of Barcelona explains to CF that they lodged two claims, one enforced in January 2016, pursuant to which CatSalut paid 214,453.56 euros for claims of delays in the payment of invoices in 2013 (from January to April and from September to December) and in 2014 (from January to March).

The Association adds that it is awaiting a ruling on a claim relating to invoices between August 2011 and October 2012. Specifically, a claim has been made for 12.4 million euros for interest on the delay in payments, in application of the interest rate provided under Article 7 of Law 3/2004 on Late Payment.

The Association of Pharmacists of Barcelona clarifies that “this first claim is not affected by the judgement of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which endorses the waiver of interest for late payment”.  The judgment considered that “contractual clauses or practices excluding interest for late payment and compensation for recovery costs are grossly unfair”. And it indicated that the national courts alone are competent to assess whether the waiver has been freely agreed to.

The same argument is made by Aguilar: “the ECJ judgement does not apply. Pharmacies were not the subject of the aforementioned plans”.

Aguilar provides further details: “The sum awarded in favour of the claimants amounts to 104,198.32 euros, which has mostly been paid by CatSalut.  Payment is usually made at two months following notification of the ruling”. He indicates that the interest rate applied “is the hardest possible, being between 8.5% and 8.75% of the total sum owed”.

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