The European Small Claims Procedure has the key aim of simplifying and speeding up litigation across borders within the EU in relation to claims of low value, and thus of reducing the costs of such litigation between the Member States. This procedure is available to parties as an alternative to the procedures provided for in the national legislation of the relevant Member State(s). The procedure is usually conducted in writing, using standard claim forms.
The European Small Claims Procedure is based on Regulation (EC) No. 861/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council. It is applied in all EU Member States except Denmark.
In what matters is the European Small Claims Procedure available?
The European Small Claims Procedure is available if your claim (excluding interest and costs) amounts to no more than EUR 5,000. The procedure extends to claims other than monetary ones. In other words, your claim may concern an item whose value is no more than EUR 5,000. The procedure is available regardless of whether your receivable is contested or uncontested.
The procedure is not available in all kinds of disputes, but there are no limitations on its application to consumer complaints with a value of up to EUR 5,000.
Where and how do I file a complaint?
Begin the European Small Claims Procedure by filling in the standard Claim Form A and submitting it to the competent court. Claim Form A is available here. Instructions for each section of the form can be found on the form itself, so you do not necessarily need to consult a lawyer.
You must state the evidence supporting your claim on the Claim Form and append any documentary evidence.
If you are considering using this procedure, make particularly sure that you are addressing the claim to the right party. Also remember the risks involved. If the vendor has no assets, you will only incur unnecessary costs from the procedure, because even a decision in your favour will probably not benefit you.
Submit the Claim Form with appendices to the competent court. Principally, your claim must be filed with a court in the home country of the vendor. However, a consumer is also entitled – with certain exceptions – to file a claim with a court in his own home country. In Finland, the competent court for small claims is the Helsinki District Court. Information on competent courts in other Member States can be found here.
For further information on the competent court, call tel. 029 553 9500, Mon to Fri 9.00–12.00.
What does the procedure cost?
The party initiating the procedure must pay the processing fee charged by the court. In Finland in 2014, the fee was EUR 86.
Other costs may arise from the procedure (e.g. legal and translation costs), for which you may also claim compensation.
The losing party is generally ordered to pay not only their own legal costs but the winning party’s legal costs too.
Remember that if the vendor has no assets, even a decision in your favour will not benefit you; you will only have paid unnecessary costs.
Can I submit the claim in Finnish?
Your claim and all other process documents must be submitted to the court in the official language of the court.
For other clarifications, the court may require the submitting party to have the document translated, if necessary. A party to the matter may refuse to accept a document not written in the official language of the destination country or in a language that the party understands. In such a case, the court will inform the opposite party that a translation of the document in question must be provided.
How does the procedure go?
Once the Claim Form is received by the competent court, a copy is forwarded to the vendor. The vendor has 30 days in which to respond, and may do one of the following:
- satisfy your claim before the court makes a decision; in such a case, you must notify the competent court
- send you a conciliation proposal; it is up to you to decide whether you accept it
- contest your claim, in which case the vendor’s response will be forwarded to you; you will have the opportunity to send a rejoinder, after which the court will rule on the matter at its discretion
- fail to respond within 30 days, in which case the court will request a further clarification or issue a decision
After the above, within 30 days the court must request further clarification, receive evidence, refer the matter to an oral hearing or issue a decision.
Does enforcing a decision require any further action?
In the European Small Claims Procedure, a judgment issued by a court in any Member State must be acknowledged and enforced in any other Member State, without the judgment being separately declared enforceable. This acknowledgement may not be contested.
The judgment must be enforced according to the legislation of the country in which it is enforced. When demanding enforcement, a party in the matter must present an authorised copy of the judgment and an authorised translation of the certificate (Form D).
Information on the competent enforcement authority may be found here.
The authorities may not demand any surety, guarantee or deposit on the basis of the complainant being the citizen of another country, or not having a domicile or place of residence in the Member State in which the judgment is to be enforced.
Is the decision open to appeal?
Appeals against judgments issued in the European Small Claims Procedure are handled according to the national legislation on judicial procedure in the Member State in question.
In Finland, a judgment under the European Small Claims Procedure may be presented to a Court of Appeal. Written directions for making an appeal will be provided by the District Court after its decision is issued.