The aim of the Small Claims Court procedure is to provide an inexpensive, fast and easy way for consumers to resolve disputes without the need to employ a solicitor. The Small Claims service is provided in your local District Court office.
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 in the Small Claims Court 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.
The procedure 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, he/she completes a Notice of Acceptance of Liability, and returns 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 court hearing.
The respondent outlines his/her 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, he/she is then held to have admitted the claim. The procedure is the same as if he/she 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.
If your case has been referred to court for hearing it may be advisable to get legal advice. Under Irish Law should there be court proceedings a business has to be legally represented.
You will receive a letter from the Small Claims Office telling you the date and time of the court hearing and the location of the court itself.
If you have any difficulty with attending court on that date, notify the Small Claims Office and the respondent immediately. You may ask to have the date adjourned, or put back, to another date. Only the judge can make this order and you will need a very good reason for not being able to attend or go ahead with the case on that date. If you cannot attend yourself, you can send a representative to make the request to the court on your behalf.
At your hearing, when all the witnesses have been heard, the judge will usually make his or her decision there and then. If the judge decides in your favour, he or she will make an order or Decree. This is usually an order for the respondent to pay an amount of money to you, but the judge can decide to make any order he or she sees fit. For example, the Judge may direct that the work be completed or the goods be repaired. The order will be made to suit your particular case.
If the court makes a Decree for an amount of money, the respondent has 28 calendar days to pay you. If the court makes any other type of Decree, it will usually put a time limit within which it must be completed.
If the judge decides not to uphold your claim, your case will be dismissed, this means that no order or Decree will be made in your favour.
See "Further information" below for more on preparing for court and the court hearing.
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/County Registrar for execution.
You will 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/County Registrar, they then go to the respondent and seizes goods or money to the value of the amount set out in your Decree.
It will involve a fee, payable to the Sheriff/County Registrar. If the Sheriff/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 you are not satisfied with the decision of the Small Claims Court, you can appeal your case to the Circuit Court. Careful consideration should be given to this decision. You should look at why your case failed and consider how likely you are to succeed in another court. If you are not successful in your appeal, there is a possibility you might be held liable for the other parties' costs. In addition, if you decide to appeal to the Circuit Court, you may need to get advice or assistance from a lawyer since this is a higher and more formal court. You must make your application for appeal within 14 calendar days of the court hearing.
The respondent also has a right to appeal the decision to the Circuit Court. They too must do this within 14 calendar days of the court hearing. If this happens, you will receive notice from the court office.
The current fee for making a claim in the Small Claims Court is €25. This
fee is payable by cheque or postal order. The District Court Clerk or the Small
Claims Registrar will accept the fee in cash if you pay it in person.
Download an application for the Small Claims Court. (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 your local District Court office. Staff in the District Court office can help in completing the application form.
You make your claim to the the District Court office in the area where:
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.
The Courts Service has information on the Small Claims procedure on its website.
You can lodge an application for the Small Claims procedure in the District Court 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/debit card and an email address to which you have access.
The Small Claims procedure is provided through your local District Court. Contact information for local District Court offices throughout Ireland is here.
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 three 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.
It is very important to prepare yourself for the court hearing and it may be advisable to get legal advice. Under Irish Law should there be court proceedings a business has to be legally represented.
You will need to present information to the judge that sets out clearly the nature of your relationship with the respondent. This relationship could relate to the roles of:
You will need to show what went wrong and give the circumstances surrounding the problem.
You will need to show how you tried to put the matter right and the steps you took to remedy the situation.
You should also know how the various consumer laws protect you in your particular situation and draw the court's attention to them. You can read more about consumer rights here.
You should be clear about exactly what it is you are claiming for.
When presenting your information to the court, you should back it up with evidence wherever possible. You should:
On the day of your court hearing, you will have to attend the District Court. It will be a court open to the public and it will be a District Court Judge that will hear your case.
When your case is called you will hear your name called out and then the name of the respondent, e.g., "Patrick Murphy versus Joe Ryan".
At this point, you should stand up and identify yourself to the court. The Small Claims Registrar will then call out to the judge a summary of what your case is about. You will then be asked to go to the witness box. You will stand in the witness box and the Court Clerk will assist you to swear an oath or to make an affirmation to tell the truth. The judge will then ask you to begin your case. Here is where you must give your side of the dispute, in as clear a fashion as possible and backed up with as much evidence as you need.
The judge will ask you some questions, which you should answer as best you can. Remember, the correct way to address the judge is "judge" and you should direct your answers to the judge at all times. When you have answered the judge's questions, the judge will give the respondent an opportunity to question you. Answer these questions as best you can but do not start an argument with the respondent. After this, you will be allowed to leave the witness box. If you wish to call a witness, you should do so at this time. Your witness will go through a similar procedure. When your witness or witnesses have finished, it will be the respondent's turn to give his or her evidence. If your case is against a company, a representative of the company will speak on its behalf.
The procedure for the respondent is very much the same as it was for you. You will get an opportunity to question the respondent when the judge has finished asking him/her questions. You can prepare for this by studying the respondent's reply on the Notice of Dispute (and Counterclaim, if relevant) and by preparing questions in advance. You will also need to listen carefully to what the respondent says while in the witness box and you can challenge any evidence you do not agree with at this time. The respondent will then have an opportunity to call witnesses to give evidence. You will also be given an opportunity to put questions to these witnesses.
When all the witnesses have been heard, the judge will usually make his or her decision there and then.
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.