Changes to the European Small Claims Procedure will soon allow SMEs to recover debts of up to €5000 (about £3700). In use since 2009, the Small Claims Procedure offers businesses and citizens a way of recovering money owed by someone in another EU country using standard forms.
To date, the Procedure has reduced the costs of litigation for cross-border small claims by up to 40% and the duration of cases from more than two years to an average of five months.
A judgment given through the Small Claims Procedure is recognised and enforceable in another Member State without the need for a declaration of enforceability and cannot be opposed.
Recent changes approved by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) include raising the ceiling for the amount recoverable under the procedure from €2000 to €5000, and ensuring that court fees are proportionate to the value of the claim.
National authorities will have to make it possible to use distance payment methods to settle court fees.
Video-conferencing and other distance communication technology will be encouraged in court cases, and the parties involved must be given free practical assistance to complete forms, together with general information on courts and their procedures.
During the next five years, the possibility of raising the ceiling for small claims still further will be examined.
Following the European Parliament’s vote, the draft legislation must be approved by the Council of Ministers. Once this process is complete, Member States will be given 18 months to bring the new rules into force.
Information about the European Small Claims Procedure can be found here.