The aim of the small claims procedure (also known as the small claims court) is to provide an inexpensive, fast and easy way for consumers and businesses to resolve disputes without the need to employ a solicitor. The person who is making the claim is known as the claimant. The person you are claiming against is known as the respondent. Both the claimant and the respondent must be living or based within the State. If either party lives or is based in another EU member state, the European Small Claims Procedure should be used.
The small claims procedure is provided by the local District Court offices.
The procedure can be used to resolve consumer complaints. Certain other types of disputes are also eligible. Since January 2010, businesses can make claims against other businesses.
The claim cannot exceed €2,000.
The following types of consumer claims can be dealt with under the small claims procedure:
Consumer claims cannot be made through the small claims procedure for debts, personal injuries or breach of leasing or hire-purchase agreements.
Businesses can make claims against other businesses in relation to contracts for goods or services purchased. It does not apply to claims in relation to:
The procedure is designed to deal with claims up to €2,000 and can be summarised as follows:
At this stage, there are various choices available to the respondent:
The respondent has 15 calendar days to reply. Where the respondent admits the claim, they complete a Notice of Acceptance of Liability and return it to the Registrar
The respondent has 3 options:
The respondent has 15 calendar days to reply and returns to the Registrar the Notice of Dispute within the 15 calendar day period. The Registrar sends the claimant a copy of the Notice of Dispute and tries to settle the dispute.
If no settlement can be reached, the matter is then set down for a hearing in the District Court.
The respondent outlines their intention to counterclaim on the Notice of Dispute and sends the appropriate fee to the Registrar. The Registrar sends the claimant a copy of the Notice of Dispute and Counterclaim.
The respondent has 15 calendar days to reply to the claim. Where there is no reply by the respondent, they are then held to have admitted the claim. The procedure is the same as if they had consented to judgement. The claimant swears an Affidavit of Debt and makes a request for Judgement and Decree. The Registrar will assist the claimant in this procedure. The Registrar will notify the respondent of the judgement. The respondent has 28 calendar days to comply with the judgement.
Once you have obtained judgement and have a decree, there is the possibility that the respondent will not comply with the order of the court. In this situation, you may need to enforce your judgement. The most usual way of enforcing a judgement is to give the decree to the Sheriff or County Registrar for execution.
You have to apply to the Small Claims Registrar to have the decree sent to you. The Registrar will not automatically send you the decree for execution in this way. After you give the decree to the Sheriff or County Registrar, they then go to the respondent and seize goods or money to the value of the amount set out in your decree.
It will involve a fee, payable to the Sheriff or County Registrar. If the Sheriff or County Registrar successfully executes the judgement, this fee will be refunded to you.
Information and assistance on enforcement procedures is available from the Small Claims Registrar.
If your case has been referred for a hearing in the District Court, you will receive a letter from the District Court office telling you the date and time of the court hearing and the location of the court itself. The case will be heard in public as part of a normal sitting of the District Court. It may be advisable to get legal advice.
Under Irish law, a business is required to be legally represented in court-based proceedings.
The current fee for making a claim through the small claims procedure is €25. This fee is payable by cheque or postal order. The Small Claims Registrar will accept the fee in cash if you pay it in person. If you apply online, you are required to pay online.
If your claim is accepted as suitable for the small claims procedure the fee is not refunded, even if your claim is successful.
Download an application for the small claims procedure. (You can complete this form by filling it in on the screen and printing it, or by printing it and completing it by hand. This application form is also available from local District Court offices. Staff in the District Court office can help in completing the application form.
It is important when completing the application form to give all the necessary information. This will help the Small Claims Registrar to process your claim and try and resolve the dispute. If no resolution can be reached, it will also make it easier to enforce a Decree (or court order) if one is granted.
You can find more on completing the application form in ‘Further information’ below.
You can also make an application for the small claims procedure online. Using Courts Service Online you can create and pay for a small claim application. You can also check the status of your online small claim securely, using a username and password.
To create a claim online you need a credit or debit card and an email address to which you have access.
The small claims procedure is provided through local District Court offices. You make your claim to the District Court office in the area where:
You will find a list of district court areas on the Court Service website.
The Courts Service has information on the small claims procedure on its website.
Before you begin to fill in the application form, the following information will be useful to help explain the various parts of the form. There are 3 distinct sections to the form.
The person taking the claim is the claimant. This section is for your personal details. Here you should enter your name and address. It is important to make sure that the correct person is making the claim. The person who bought the faulty goods or the person who ordered the work to be carried out should be the one to take the claim. Likewise, the person whose property has been damaged should be the one making the claim.
This section is for the details of the person or company you are making the claim against. You must make the claim against a person or a company. Often you may not know who owns the shop you bought the faulty goods from. It is not enough to just put the name of the shop on the application form. You must investigate who owns the shop.
You can do this by making a companies search in the Companies Registration Office. Here you will find a register of all the companies in the country. If the shop is not registered as a company, try a business name search, also in the Companies Registration Office. If the respondent resides outside of Ireland, you should ask them to nominate, in writing, someone in this country (usually their agent or solicitor) to accept proceedings on their behalf.
In this section, you should set out the facts of your case clearly and simply.
It is important to include the amount for which you are claiming. If the claim is not disputed, you may get judgement without having to go to court. Bear in mind that you can normally only claim the amount for which you are directly out of pocket, in other words, the amount you paid for the faulty goods and/or any cost involved in having them repaired. It is therefore a good idea to keep all receipts and documentation to show what these amounts are.
Sometimes the Small Claims Court may allow you to claim some general damage where there was distress caused to you by a faulty product or service. A good example of this is where a holiday goes disastrously wrong. You can read more about consumer rights and package holidays here.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.