European small claims procedure
The European Small Claims Procedure provides an inexpensive and easy way for someone to pursue a cross-border claim without the need to employ a solicitor. Similar to the Small Claims Court it can be used in civil and in commercial matters. The claim cannot exceed €5,000. It is an alternative to other options that may exist under the national laws of EU member states.
What cases does it apply to?
The procedure applies to cross-border cases. In other words, the party with whom you are in dispute must be domiciled or habitually resident in another member state and you are pursuing the action in Ireland. It allows you, for example, to make a claim in Ireland for a faulty product which you bought online from someone living in another EU country.
The procedure does not apply to:
- Revenue, customs or administrative matters
- The liability of the State
- The status or legal capacity of an individual
- Property rights arising from marriage, maintenance obligations or wills and successions
- Bankruptcy, compositions and similar proceedings
- Social security
- Employment law
- Tenancies of immovable property, except for monetary claims
- Violations of privacy and of rights relating to personality, including defamation
How do I start the procedure in Ireland?
You must fill out a European Small Claims Procedure claim form, giving details of your claim, the amount you are seeking and any other details required. The amount claimed cannot exceed €5,000, excluding interest and expenses. You must then lodge it with the Registrar in your local District Court office. The claim and any other supporting documentation must be in English or Irish, Ireland’s official languages.
If your claim is outside the scope of the procedure (see above), the Registrar will notify you. If you do not provide enough information, the Registrar will send you a form asking for the missing information. Your claim will be rejected if you fail to complete or correct the claim in the time specified, or if it clearly has no basis.
If your claim is not withdrawn or rejected, the Registrar will proceed with it.
How is the defendant notified?
Once the Registrar has received the properly filled out claim form, a standard answer form is prepared. This form, together with a copy of the claim form and any supporting documentation, is served on the defendant by post within 14 days. The defendant has 30 days to respond and must respond in English or Irish.
Within 14 days of receiving the defendant’s response, the Registrar forwards a copy of it and any supporting documentation to you.
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.
When is the judgement given?
Where the defendant contests 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 judgement.
The District Court gives its judgement within 30 days of receiving the response from the defendant. If there is a counterclaim, the judgement is given within 30 days of your response.
However, the court can decide to ask for further information from either or both parties (30 days to reply). It may hold an oral hearing at either the defendant’s or your request. This can be done by video conference or similar procedure. In these situations, the court gives its judgement within 30 days of getting the information or holding the oral hearing.
If either or both parties do not reply in time, the court still gives its judgement.
At your request, the court will issue you with a certificate of judgement.
How do I enforce the judgement?
Enforcement of the judgement is governed by the law of the EU member state where you want the judgement enforced. You are required to provide to the court in the member state an original copy of the judgement and the certificate of judgement. The certificate has to be translated into the language of the member state. You cannot be required to provide any security, bond or deposit on the grounds that you are a foreign national or you are not domiciled or resident in that member state.
Whether the defendant can appeal against the judgement depends on the procedural law of the member state.
At the request of the defendant, the court in the member state can refuse to enforce the judgment where the judgment is irreconcilable with an earlier judgment on the same matter. The irreconcilability of the judgments must not have been raised as an objection in the proceedings of the European Small Claims Procedure. Also, the earlier judgment must have been given in the member state or was capable of being recognised there.
If the defendant challenges or applies for a review of the judgment, the court in the member state can:
- Limit the enforcement procedure to protective measures
- Make enforcement conditional on some security
- Stay the enforcement proceedings in exceptional circumstances
The defendant can also apply for a review to the District Court where you obtained the judgment where:
- The claim form or summons to an oral hearing was not served by a method which provides proof of receipt by the defendant personally
- The service was not effected in time for the defendant to prepare a defence, without any fault on the defendant’s part
- The defendant was prevented from objecting to the claim by reasons of force majeure or due to extraordinary circumstances, without any fault on the defendant’s part
The defendant must act promptly. When a review is considered justified, the original judgment becomes null and void.
The fee for the European Small Claims Procedure is €25.
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.
How to apply
European Small Claims Procedure claim forms are available from your local District Court office. You cannot make a claim online but can download the claim form from the Courts Service website.
You must complete the form, giving details of your claim, the amount you are seeking and any other details required. You must give the name and full physical address of the party you are in dispute with, even if it is an online business.
The completed claim form together with any supporting documentation and the
fee must be lodged with the Registrar in the local District Court office.
Where to apply
The European Small Claims Procedure is provided through your local District Court. See contact information for local District Court offices throughout Ireland.
Further information on the European Small Claims Procedure is available on the Courts Service website.