It is not very appealing: going to court to collect a small claim on a foreign party. Nothing could be further from the truth. There has been a simple European collection procedure in place since 2009 for claims of up to € 2,000 on a party from another EU member state, with the exception of Denmark.
On grounds of the European regulation establishing a European Small Claims Procedure (Regulation no. 861/2007), it is possible to inexpensively and easily initiate court proceedings for a claim of less than € 2,000. Implementation provisions have been included in the Regulation for European Small Claims Procedure Act for the procedure in the Netherlands. The sub-district court has been designated in the Netherlands as the court where the proceedings must be initiated. For specific information on other member states, you can use the European Judicial Atlas.
A number of conditions have been stipulated for such a procedure, however. First of all, the claim may not be higher than € 2,000, not including interest, costs and expenditure. The case must also involve a cross-border matter. That means that the parties must come from different EU member states. A dispute between two Dutch parties does not fall within the scope of the regulation therefore. The case must also involve a civil/commercial matter. The procedure does not apply for claims based on employment contracts, arbitration or leases. The proceedings must also take place in the language or languages of the competent court. A petition that is not prepared in the admissible language may be refused.
This procedure has a number of advantages compared to the normal summons procedure:
a) the costs are lower, for example since no bailiff needs to be involved. The form can be sent to the competent court by registered post;
b) the proceedings can be completed quicker, since short time periods of thirty days apply for the claimant, respondent and the court. The Dutch legislator has opted not to permit any appeal. As a result, after the decision from the sub-district court, the procedure is finished, except in special cases;
c) in principle the procedure takes place entirely in writing, unless one of the parties wants an oral hearing or the court handling the procedure deems an oral hearing necessary.
d) the procedure is introduced with a standard form which enables the creditor to fill in all the relevant details in a straightforward manner. There are also standard forms for the court and the respondent(s). For the rest, unlike the claimant, the respondent does not need to use the standard form, but can respond in another appropriate manner;
e) it is not necessary to engage a lawyer;
f) a decision given in this procedure is recognised and enforced in the other member states without any intermediate measures. The law court issues a certificate for this. It may be necessary to have this certificate translated into the language of the country where the decision must be enforced.
Although appeal is excluded in the Netherlands, there is a possibility of submitting a request for reconsideration to the sub-district court in exceptional cases. It concerns a kind of application to set aside a default judgment. If the court finds against the respondent, in certain cases the respondent can ask the judge to reconsider his decision (for instance, if the respondent did not receive the documents and could not respond on time). Since appeal is excluded in the Netherlands, this is really the only way to challenge a decision. After all, the facts can no longer be discussed in cassation.
Raymond van Benthum