n a response to a public consultation and the Eurobarometer, the European Commission unveiled the European Small Claims Procedure on 19 November. It aims to remove the existing complications for consumers and businesses in low-value cross-border disputes.
Ecommerce Europe advocates advancing the digital single market and favours a level playing field, stimulating cross-border sales.
In a press release, Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding stated: “No consumer or business claim is too small for justice to be served. Having listened to consumers and businesses, today, the Commission is proposing rules that will make a truly European procedure more effective and relevant to daily life. At a time when the European Union is facing big economic challenges, improving the efficiency of justice in the EU is key to restoring growth and boosting trade. Today, we are acting to simplify the procedure for resolving low-value disputes in our Single Market. Consumers and SMEs should feel at home when they buy cross-border.”
This proposal actually is an improved update for a mechanism that is already in place. The European Small Claims Procedure was adopted in 2007 and has been applied since 2009. Thus far it has delivered: the cost of litigations has gone down by 40% and the duration of litigation has gone down from 2 to 5 years to only 5 months.
The following improvements have been unveiled:
- Raising the threshold for filing a ‘small claim’: the initial mechanism defined small claims with a ceiling of €2.000. This ceiling has been raised to €10.000. Since 50% of all business claims is under €10.000, it will account for 50% of all claims (up from 20%).
- Widen the definition of what is a ‘cross-border’ case: the current definition does not provide the clarity, resulting in complications. With a widening of the definition, more cases will fall under the definition of ‘cross-border’ which is expected to lead to more resolved cases.
- Cap court fees: in some current cases, the court fees exceed the costs of the goods at issue. The new provision foresees that court fees will not surpass 10% of the value of the claim.
- Cut paperwork and travel costs: the filing of claims can be done online to prevent citizens from making costly and time consuming procedures.