European small claims procedure
What is the European small claims procedure?
The European small claims procedure provides an inexpensive way for someone to pursue a cross-border claim without employing a solicitor.
It is an alternative to options that may exist under the national laws of EU member states. It is available in all EU member states except Denmark.
In Ireland, the service is facilitated by the local District Court offices. To use the service, the claim cannot exceed €5,000.
Who are the parties in a claim?
If you are making the claim, you are known as the claimant. The person you are claiming against is known as the defendant.
Either the claimant or the defendant must be domiciled or resident in an EU country other than Ireland.
If both parties live or are based in Ireland, the Small claims procedure should be used.
How do I make a claim if I am in Ireland?
To make a claim, you must complete a European small claims procedure application form and return it to your local District Court office. You must submit the claim and any supporting documentation in English or Irish, Ireland’s official languages.
You can get an application form from the Small Claims Registrar of your local District Court office, where staff can help you complete it.
You can also download a form from the European e-Justice Portal. The name of the application form is Form A – Claim form.
Can I make a claim online?
You cannot submit a claim online under this procedure.
However, you can complete an application form on the European e-Justice Portal using their online facility, but this does not submit the application for you. It creates a PDF file which you need to download and return to the Small Claims Registrar of your local District Court office to start the procedure.
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. If more information is required, you may be asked to submit this.
The application form has 12 sections, with instructions available on the form that explain what information is needed for each section.
Claimant and Defendant sections
In the Claimant section, you must provide your name, address and contact details if you are the person making the claim. The person making the claim should be the one who has the civil or commercial issue (see ‘Types of claims dealt with under the procedure’ below).
In the Defendant section, you must provide the name, address and contact details of the person or company you are making the claim against. You must give the defendant’s full physical address, even if the issue is with their online business.
In the Jurisdiction section, you must indicate the legal grounds which you believe the District Court has to deal with this claim. The possible grounds are listed and you choose the most relevant option.
For example, you may choose ‘domicile of the consumer’ because the District Court is in Ireland, which is your permanent home.
Claim and Details of claim sections
In the Claim section, you must indicate if you are claiming for money or if you are making another type of claim, and you must specify the amount you are claiming for and the currency.
In the Details of claim section, you should set out the specifics of your claim clearly and include any supporting documents.
These details should include:
- What happened and when/where the issue took place
- What went wrong and how you handled it
- Information on your supporting documents and how it supports your claim
Other details you must provide
The remaining sections of the form will ask you to confirm:
- Details of the District Court office where the claim will be sent
- How you will pay the application fee
- The bank account to where any award should be sent
- The cross-border nature of the claim
- Your preferences around attending an oral hearing
- Whether you want a certificate which would allow any court judgment made to be enforced in a different EU country (see ‘Enforcing your judgment’ below)
Where to make a claim
The European small claims procedure is provided through your local District Court. You can find a list of District Court areas on the Courts Service website.
The European e-Justice portal has a search tool which can provide details of courts that can help with the European small claims procedure.
Types of claims dealt with under the procedure
The procedure applies to cross-border cases, so you and the party you have a dispute with must live in separate EU countries. You can make claims against an organisation, another business, or a customer.
The procedure can be used in most types of civil or commercial claims, such as claims for:
- Payment of money
- Damages arising from an accident
- Delivery of goods or other moveable property
- Fulfilment of a contract
- Prevention of an illegal act
What is not covered by the procedure?
The procedure does not apply to:
- Revenue, customs or administrative matters
- Social security
- The liability of the State
- The status or legal capacity of an individual
- Violations of privacy or personality rights, including defamation
- Employment law
- Bankruptcy, debt settlement agreements (know as compositions), and similar proceedings
- Property tenancies
- Property rights arising from marriage, maintenance obligations, or wills and successions
The procedure does not cover Denmark, so you would need to use a national procedure for Denmark if making a claim against somebody living there.
How does the European small claims procedure work?
The claimant submits the application form to the Small Claims Registrar at a local District Court office (see ‘How to make a claim’ above).
The Registrar reviews the application form. If further information is needed, you may be asked to complete a separate form to provide this within a certain timeframe.
Once the Registrar is satisfied they have all of the information and that the claim can proceed, they will prepare an answer form and send this to the defendant within 14 days of the claim being made.
If either you or the defendant refuses to accept documentation because it is not in a language you or the defendant understands, the court will ask the other party to supply a translation.
What happens after I submit my claim?
At this stage, the defendant can choose to do one of the following:
- They can admit the claim
- They can dispute or challenge the claim
- They can challenge the court’s jurisdiction
- They can counterclaim
- They might ignore the claim
The defendant has 30 days to reply, though this can be extended in exceptional circumstances. Once received, the defendant’s reply will be shared with you within 14 days.
Defendant admits the claim
The defendant admits the claim and agrees to pay you the amount claimed by one of the following methods:
- Immediate payment to the preferred bank account indicated on your initial claim form
- A deferred lump sum, payable on a specified date
- Instalment payments at intervals to be agreed with you
The Registrar will state the defendant’s preferred option and seek your consent to resolve the matter in this way.
The defendant may also admit the claim but the dispute the amount claimed for. The Registrar will inform you of this and attempt to negotiate a solution between you and the defendant. If this fails, the claim is referred to the District Court for judgment.
Defendant disputes or challenges the claim
The defendant disputes the claim. The Registrar will attempt to negotiate a solution between you and the defendant. If this fails, the claim is referred to the District Court for judgment.
The defendant may also challenge the claim on procedural grounds. For example, they may argue that the claim is:
- Outside the scope of the procedure
- A higher value than the €5,000 limit allowed
- Not a cross-border claim
If the challenge to the claim on procedural grounds is successful, both you and the respondent will be told within 30 days that the claim cannot proceed. You can withdraw the claim and consider making a new claim under a different relevant procedure.
Defendant challenges the court’s jurisdiction
The defendant challenges the court’s jurisdiction to deal with the matter. If the challenge to the court’s jurisdiction is successful, the claim cannot proceed and you must withdraw it. You can make a new claim in a different court which has the legal power to deal with it.
The defendant counterclaims (takes a claim against you). To make sure that the €5,000 limit is not exceeded, your original claim and the counterclaim are treated separately.
Defendant ignores the claim
If the defendant does not reply to the claim within the specified timeframe, the District Court will grant a judgment on the claim.
When is the judgment given?
The District Court will usually give its judgment within 30 days of receiving one of the following:
- The defendant’s response to the claim.
- Your response to a counterclaim (if one has been made).
- Either party’s response to a request for further information (if such a request has been made).
The court may hold an oral hearing at the request of either party, or if it decides that it cannot form a judgment based on the written submissions received. This is done by video conference. The court will give its judgment within 30 days of holding the oral hearing.
If either or both parties do not reply within 30 days, the court still gives its judgment.
Either party can request that the court issue a certificate concerning the judgment. The court issues this using the relevant form.
Enforcing your judgment
Enforcing a judgment is governed by the law of the EU member state where the judgment will be enforced. If the defendant is based in another EU member state, the judgment will be enforced there.
The rules for enforcing a judgment may be different in each country. You can find information about enforcement procedures in other EU member states on the European e-Justice Portal.
To enforce the judgment, you must:
- Provide an original copy of the judgment and the certificate of judgment to the court in the member state
- Provide a translation of these documents into the member state's official language
You are not required to provide any security, bond or deposit on the grounds that you are a foreign national or are not living in that member state.
If the judgment conflicts with an earlier judgment made on the same matter, the defendant can request that the court refuse to enforce the judgment. This must not have been previously raised during the procedure, and the earlier judgment must have been given in the member state, or was capable of being recognised there.
Can the judgment be reviewed or appealed?
The defendant can apply for a review to the District Court where the judgment was given.
The defendant can apply for a review in circumstances where they:
- Did not receive the claim form or oral hearing summons by a method which proves they received it or with enough time to properly prepare a defence
- Could not contest the claim due to major or extraordinary circumstances outside of their control
The defendant must request a review within 30 days of being informed of the judgment.
If a review is successful, the original judgment becomes null and void, and you will need to make a new claim.
Whether the defendant can appeal against the judgment depends on the law of the member state where the judgment is to be enforced.
How much does it cost to make a claim?
The fee for the European small claims procedure is €25. You can pay by:
- Postal order
- Bank draft
You may have to pay for the translation of your documents if they are in a language the defendant does not understand.
If you win, you can claim for such additional costs. If you lose, however, you may have to pay for any translation or other costs incurred by the defendant.
You can read more about European small claims procedure court fees and Ireland on the European e-Justice Portal.
The European Commission has published a guide for the European small claims procedure which is available to download from the European e-Justice Portal.