European Commission proposes wider definition of small claims

Nov. 19, 2013 at 10:18 AM
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BRUSSELS, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- The European Commission on Tuesday proposed extending the limit on small claims complaints to allow European businesses more access to the system.

The commission's European Small Claims Procedure, meant to help consumers and small businesses seek justice concerning online commerce, has been effective for consumers, the commission said in a statement. But the threshold for claims defined as small claims was set at $2,700, which is too small for most business claims to qualify, the commission said.

"The key change proposed today would raise the ceiling for filing a claim under the procedure to $13,500, up from $2,700," the commission said.

"Small businesses will be the big winners of this change -- as currently only 20 percent of business claims fall below the $2,700 threshold," the commission added.

"No consumer or business claim is too small for justice to be served", said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's justice commissioner. "Having listened to consumers and businesses, today the commission is proposing rules that will make a truly European procedure more effective and relevant to daily life," Reding said.

Noting that the economy in Europe is facing significant challenges, Reding said, "improving the efficiency of justice in the EU is key to restoring growth and boosting trade."

The commission said the European Small Claims Procedure, adopted in 2007 and in service since 2009 "has proven its worth," helping to reduce the cost of litigating cross-border small claims disputes by up to 40 percent. At the same time, the average length of time it takes to purse a small claims complaint has dropped from two years and five months to an average duration of 5 months, the commission said.

The commission said it also proposed to cap court fees at about $50, allow for claims to be launched online and for teleconferencing or videoconferencing to be "natural tools in oral hearings, whenever these are necessary."

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