1 Existence of a specific small claims procedure
The usual procedure for small claims is the summons procedure at the sub-district sector of the court (sector kanton van de rechtbank). This is an ordinary summons procedure, with procedural simplifications. If the case is heard in the sub-district sector of the court you are not required to engage a lawyer and can instead choose to represent yourself.
In cross-border cases within the EU, the European small claims procedure may also be used. You can use the European small claims procedure if you are owed money by:
- another company;
- an organisation;
- a client.
In Dutch law, there is an Act implementing the European Small Claims Procedure Regulation (Act of 29 May 2009 implementing Regulation (EC) No 861/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 July 2007 establishing a European Small Claims Procedure).
1.1 Scope of procedure, threshold
The sub-district court is seised of:
- cases relating to claims for a maximum of €25,000;
- cases relating to claims of undetermined value, if the value is unlikely to exceed €25,000.
In addition, the sub-district court rules in cases involving employment law, leases, consumer sales and consumer credit cases, appeals against traffic fines and minor offences. It also deals with administration, guardianship, curatorship and the renunciation or acceptance of an inheritance. Click here for more information about the summons procedure at the sub‑district court.
Cases concerning European small claims are also handled by the sub-district court. The maximum value for the European small claims procedure is set by Regulation (EC) No 861/2007 at €5,000.
1.2 Application of procedure
There is no special sub-district court procedure. In principle, the rules for the summons procedure apply for both the district court and the sub-district sector. An important difference is that in cases before the sub-district court the parties have the right to argue their own case, whereas in other cases (before the district court), the parties must be represented by a lawyer. See point 1.4 below. In addition, in the sub-district sector the cases are handled by a single‑judge formation, i.e. by a judge sitting alone.
The rules on the petition procedure are applicable to European small claims.
The proceedings before the sub-district court are usually initiated by a summons. The most important statements in the summons are the statement of claim (the claim itself) and the reasons for it (facts and rights on which the statement of claim is based).
A few particularities of the sub-district court proceedings are:
- the defendant is summoned before district court A, but to appear before the sub‑district court judge sitting in the main venue of court A or in a specified sub‑district venue of court A.
- if the claimant is represented by an authorised representative for the proceedings, the name and address of the authorised representative must be stated in the summons.
A claim under the European small claims procedure is brought using form A. The application must be made to the court with jurisdiction.
In cases before the sub-district court, the parties can argue their own case. This means that there is no compulsory legal representation by a lawyer. Assistance provided by an authorised representative, who does not need to be a lawyer, is also permitted. For the reimbursement of costs of legal assistance for a lawyer, see also point 1.8 below.
In the European procedure, likewise, the parties are not required to be represented by a lawyer or other legal advisor.
1.5 Rules concerning the taking of evidence
The usual rules of the law on evidence are applicable. According to Dutch law on evidence, the judge is in principle free to assess the evidence adduced. Article 9 of the aforementioned Regulation (EC) No 861/2007 regulates the taking of evidence in the European procedure.
1.6 Written procedure
There are national rules of procedure for the civil role of the sub-district sectors (Landelijk Procesreglement voor rolzaken kanton). Written documents may be lodged with the registry of the district court before the cause list date, but also at the hearing. Statements and reactions may be submitted orally in the proceedings before the sub-district court. The European procedure is a written procedure, although a hearing can be held if the judge considers it necessary or if a party so requests.
1.7 Content of judgment
The judgment must contain:
- the names and addresses of the parties and of their authorised representatives or lawyers;
- the views expressed by the parties;
- the conduct of the procedure;
- the conclusion of the summons and the statements of the parties;
- the reasons for the decision, stating the facts and considerations of the judge;
- the judge’s final decision;
- the name of the judge;
- the apportionment of costs;
- the date of the judgment.
The judgment is signed by the judge.
1.8 Reimbursement of costs
If a case is brought before the sub-district court, the following costs may be incurred: court registration fee, apportionment of the costs awarded by the court and costs for legal assistance.
The court registration fee is payable when the court is seised of the case. The amount depends on the nature of the case. In practice, your lawyer will advance this amount and charge it to you subsequently. The judge may order the unsuccessful party to pay the costs of the other party. If neither of the parties has been totally successful, each pays his or her own costs. The costs awarded by the court may include costs for legal assistance, but also the costs of witnesses, experts, travel and subsistence expenses, costs of extracts and other out-of-court expenses.
Under Dutch legislation, the less well-off can sometimes obtain a contribution to the costs of legal assistance. Subsidised legal assistance is not possible for all cases before the sub-district courts. If subsidised legal assistance is possible, the litigant also pays an own contribution to the costs of legal assistance, depending on his or her financial situation. An application for a contribution towards the costs of legal assistance is made by the lawyer to the Legal Aid Board (Raad voor rechtsbijstand). This is regulated in the Legal Aid Act (Wet op de Rechtsbijstand). Chapter III A of this Act sets out the rules regarding the granting of legal aid in cross-border litigation within the EU.
1.9 Possibility to appeal
An appeal against judgments of the sub-district sector of the court can be lodged with the court of appeal. An appeal is possible only if the claim exceeds €1,750. An appeal may be made within 3 months of the date of delivery of the judgment. It is possible to appeal against a decision by the sub-district court in the European small claims procedure.
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