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The European Small Claims Procedure: The Forthcoming Reform

Written by Rafal Manko

On Friday, 23 January 2015 the Citizens’ Policies Unit held a Policy Hub devoted to the forthcoming reform of the European Small Claims Procedure (ESCP). The Commission proposal to modify this procedure is now on the table of the Legal Affairs Committee which is working on possible amendments, making the topic of current relevance for parliamentary work. The Policy Hub was organised to coincide with the recent publication of an in-depth analysis about the European Small Claims Procedure written by Dr Rafał Mańko, Policy Analyst from the Citizens’ Policies Unit.

The Policy Hub brought together two external experts – Professor Xandra Kramer from the Erasmus University Rotterdam and Jacek Garstka, Legislative Officer at the Civil Justice Policy Unit within the Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers and Rafał Mańko, EPRS author of the In-depth analysis. The panel was moderated by Jesús Carmona, head of EPRS Citizens’ Policies Unit.

The European Small Claims Procedure: an unused potential

The ESCP was launched on 1 January 2009 as a potentially attractive alternative to domestic civil proceedings, designed in a tailor-made fashion for cross-border claims. The procedure is simplified, mainly written, and judgements issued under this procedure are automatically enforceable across the EU. However only claims up to EUR 2,000 are eligible and many important aspects are left to national law, such as fees, any appeal procedures and enforcement proceedings. Despite its strong potential to help EU citizens and businesses to enforce cross-border claims, according to the statistical data available, it is used rather rarely.

Commission proposal

In order to make the ESCP available more widely, the Commission proposes inter alia to raise the ceiling from EUR 2,000 to EUR 10,000 and to make the cross-border element less stringent. In practice, it would no longer be required that at least one of the litigants be domiciled in a different Member State than the one in which the court is located, but virtually any significant cross-border connection, such as the place of performance of the contract, would suffice. Furthermore, the Commission would introduce a cap on the fees that need to be paid by an applicant to launch the procedure, limiting them to 10% of the value of the claim.

Discussion on state of play

The discussion focused on the current state of play of the legislative procedure, and in particular the amendments discussed in the Council and tabled in the Legal Affairs Committee. The lively discussion that followed the experts’ presentation also touched upon the choice of legal instrument (why a directly applicable regulation was opted for instead of the harmonisation of national small claims procedures by directive) and the very need for a special, cross-border procedure conceived as an alternative to domestic procedures.

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