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European Council to create small claims process


BRUSSELS, Belgium— The European Council has adopted a so-called "common position" to set up a European small claims process.

It said that the aim of the regulation is to simplify, speed up and reduce the costs of litigation based on small claims.

This will be done through the creation of a European Small Claims Procedure that will be available to citizens as an alternative to current procedures under Member State laws.

"For the first time, citizens and businesses all over Europe will have a speedy and affordable civil procedure at their disposal which is uniform in all Member States and in all procedural steps from the commencement of the procedure to the final enforcement of the judgment," said Franco Frattini, vice-president of the Commission and Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, in a statement.

The Commission explained that the common position is based upon its original proposal made on March 15, 2005.

The procedure will apply in civil and commercial disputes when the value of a claim does not exceed €2000. It will apply to pecuniary claims as well as to non-pecuniary claims.

It attempts to cut costs and time wasted on disputes through a number of simplifications. These include the introduction of standard forms and introduction of time limits.

The procedure will usually be written but does allow for an oral hearing. Courts will also be allowed to hold a hearing or take evidence through video conference or other communications technology.

The parties will also not require legal representation and the process may also require the submission of evidence through written statements of witnesses, experts or parties.

The unsuccessful party would bear the costs of the proceedings but the court would not award costs to the successful party if deemed disproportionate to the claim.

Appeals will not be allowed and parties will not be required to provide security.Judgments will be recognized and enforced in all Member States "automatically and without any possibility of opposing its recognition," said the Commission.

The new procedure will apply from 1 January 2009.