The Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament has drafted amendments to the EU Commission’s proposal on the amendment of the European Small Claims procedure in a draft report. The amendments, relate to the following:
1. The Commission’s proposal states that oral hearings should always be organised at the request of one of the parties where the claim exceeds 2,000€. The rapporteur’s amendments raise this threshold to 5,000€.
2. The Commission’s proposal seeks compulsory oral hearings for all settlements but the rapporteur feels that this should be limited to settlements that cannot be agreed by correspondence.
3. The proposal provides that the payment of court fees should be possible by both bank transfer and credit/debit card in order to allow for a wider range of payment possibilities for citizens. However, the rapporteur proposes that courts should not be obligated to provide more than one payment procedure.
4. The rapporteur agrees with the modernisation of the court system through the use of video conferencing/teleconferencing but feels that many courts will not be ready for this by the time the directive is implemented and so proposes a two year period for allowing the courts’ system to modernise.
5. The rapporteur has inserted a provision for the waiving of court fees if citizens earn under a certain threshold set by individual member states based on the living costs associated with that country.
6. From debate in the Parliament, there has been talk of raising the proposed €10 000 threshold even further to €15 000 for SMEs. The issue here is that if the Small Claims limit for EU claims is raised to £15,000, there will inevitably be pressure on the UK to introduce a similar limit and there may also be pressure to introduce video or telephone conferencing for trials, not just for interim applications, as if the technology is introduced, it may as well be fully utilised. There are generally no lawyers’ costs awarded in small claims and the parties may well consider mediation as a better option for resolving their dispute.