MEPs approve measures to ease cross-border recovery of small debts
More citizens and small firms will be able to use the simplified EU procedure to resolve low-value disputes across borders thanks to changes voted by Parliament on Wednesday. These changes, which still need to be formally approved by EU ministers, would raise the ceiling on debts recoverable using the procedure from €2,000 to €5,000.
“Simplifying the litigation process and reducing the costs of cross-border small claims is important especially for consumers and SMEs. The European Small Claims Procedure has reduced the costs of litigation for cross-border small claims by up to 40% and the duration of litigation from more than two years to an average of five months, so I am pleased that in future the procedure will be available for more cases,” said lead MEP Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (S&D, PL).
The European Small Claims Procedure, in use since 2009, is a simplified optional procedure based on standard forms for recovering money owed by someone in another EU country. Legal changes to streamline the procedure and make it available for more cases were approved by 650 votes to 26, with 28 abstentions.
Key changes include:
1. making the procedure available for more cases: the ceiling for claims covered by the procedure would be raised from the current €2,000 to €5,000,
2. ensuring that court fees are proportionate: fees for using the European Small Claims procedure should be proportionate to the value of the claim and should be no higher than the court fees charged for national simplified court procedures. Member states will also have to make it possible to use distance payment methods to settle court fees,
3. encouraging the use of distance communication technology in court cases: parties will be encouraged to use distance communication tools, such as videoconferencing for possible oral hearings, where available, and
4. providing practical assistance: member states must ensure that parties receive, free of charge, both practical assistance to fill in the forms and general information on the procedure and competence of the court
Review after 5 years
The possibility of raising the ceiling for small claims still further will be examined during the first five years of the life of the new rules.
MEPs also ensured that the implications of a possible future extension of the procedure to ease access to justice for employees in cross-border employment disputes with their employers, e.g. over salaries earned in different member states, will be assessed within the next few years.
To enter into force, the new rules still need to be approved by the Council of Ministers. They will take effect 18 months after they become law.
Procedure: Co-decision, 1st reading (agreement)