The purpose of the European small claims procedure is to simplify and speed up proceedings that concern small claims in cross-border matters and to reduce the legal costs incurred by the interested parties. This procedure is available to the interested parties as an alternative to procedures laid down in national legislation. The procedure usually takes place in writing, and the case is heard on the basis of standard forms.
The European small claims procedure is based on Regulation (EC) No 861/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council. This regulation is applied in all European Union Member States except in Denmark.
In what type of cases is the small claims procedure available?
You can resort to the European small claims procedure if the value of your claim excluding interest, costs and expenses does not exceed 2,000 euros. The Regulation also applies to others than monetary claims. In other words, the basis of the claim may be an object the value of which does not exceed 2,000 euros. The procedure is available regardless of whether the claim is contested or uncontested.
The small claims procedure is not available in all disputes, but it does apply without limitation to consumer matters concerning claims not exceeding 2,000 euros.
The small claims procedure is not used in Denmark.
How and where will I file my complaint?
The European small claims procedure is initiated by completing standard claim form A and submitting it to the competent court. To access claim form A, click here. Each section to be completed contains instructions for filling in the form, and thus you do not necessarily need a solicitor’s assistance in the procedure. Any evidence submitted in support of the claim must be cited on the claim form, and any proof in support of the case must be attached to it as necessary.
If you are thinking of initiating a European small claims procedure, you should in particular make sure that the opponent is the correct one. Please bear in mind the risks of this procedure. If the seller is without means, the procedure will only result in unnecessary costs, as you are unlikely to benefit even if the judgement is favourable to you.
You must submit the claim form and its attachments to the competent court. As a rule, the procedure must be initiated in a court in the seller’s home country. However, a consumer usually also has the right to initiate the procedure in a court of his/her home country. In Finland, the competent court in small claims cases is the Helsinki District Court. For competent courts in other countries, click here. For more information on the competent court, contact the number 029 505 3005, Mon-Fri at 9 a.m. -12 noon.
How much will the procedure cost?
The party initiating the procedure must pay a processing fee set by the court, usually amounting to a few dozen euros. (In 2011, this fee is EUR 80 in Finland).
The procedure may also result in other costs (for example, legal and translation costs), for which you can claim compensation.
The losing party usually is obliged to pay not only their own but also the opponent’s legal costs.
Please remember that in the event that the seller is without means, the procedure will only result in unnecessary costs for you, as you are unlikely to benefit even if the judgement is favourable to you.
Can I file my complaint in Finnish?
The claim and other documents for the procedure must be submitted in the language of the court that hears the matter.
As regards other information, the court may demand that the interested party have a document translated if necessary. The interested party may refuse to accept a document that has not been drawn up in an official language of the receiving Member State, or a language that the interested party can understand. In this case, the court will inform the other party of the fact that they must provide a translation of the document.
How will the procedure progress?
Once the claim form has reached the competent court, a copy of it will be sent to the seller. The seller has 30 days to reply. The seller can take any of the following action:
After this, the court will have 30 days to request further information, take evidence, refer the case to an oral hearing or to give a judgement in the case.
Will particular steps be needed to enforce the judgement?
In the European small claims procedure, a judgement given in a Member State must be recognized and enforced in another Member State without demanding that the judgement be declared enforceable and without the possibility of contesting its recognition.
The legislation of the country in which the judgement is enforced will be applied to the enforcement. When demanding enforcement, the interested party must present an official copy of the judgement and an authorized translation of the certificate (form D). To find the competent enforcement authority, click here.
The authorities may not demand a security, a guarantee or a deposit on the basis that the claimant is a citizen of another state or that he/she does not have a domicile or a place of residence in the Member State enforcing the judgement.
The judgement will be enforceable regardless of any appeals.
Can the judgement be appealed?
Appeals concerning judgements issued in European small claims procedures are heard under the Member States’ national legislation on legal procedure.
In Finland, judgements in small claims cases can be appealed to a Court of Appeal. After the Court of Appeal has issued its judgement, you will be given written instructions for appealing.