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European Small Claims Regulation

Volume 576: debated on Tuesday 25 February 2014

The Government have today decided to opt in to the European Commission’s proposal which amends the European small claims regulation.

The European small claims regulation was agreed in 2007 and has been in use since 1 January 2009. It provides a simplified EU-wide procedure to allow citizens and businesses to pursue cross-border claims with a value of €2,000 or less and to have the resulting judgments recognised for enforcement automatically in another member state. The simplified procedure aims to make dispute resolution for low-value claims cheaper and quicker.

Following an evaluation of the current regulation the Commission’s proposal aims to increase the knowledge and use of the procedure. The main changes recommended are: an increase in the threshold for a small claim from €2,000 to €10,000; a cap on court fees to 10% of the value of the claim; a broadening of what constitutes a cross-border case to include within scope more disputes; and a greater use of technology to decrease costs of service of documents and attendance at hearings—for example, through the use of video conferencing and telephone conferencing.

The Government do not agree with all of the Commission’s suggestions. They will argue, for example, that it is not appropriate for the EU to set rules on the level of court fees in each member state and they will want to ensure that the text reflects properly the cross-border restriction in article 81 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union.

However, they recognise the value of a cross-border small claims procedure for consumers who have had difficulties when buying goods from other member states, holidaymakers wishing to resolve problems encountered when abroad or businesses trading across borders.

They accept that such a procedure can help the working of the single market and for that reason believe it is in the United Kingdom’s interests to opt in to the proposal.