Immediate Wednesday 15th February 2006
Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659
LORDS COMMITTEE WELCOME IMPROVED CONSUMER PROTECTION FOR BRITS ABROAD
The House of Lords EU Committee have welcomed an EU proposal to introduce a Regulation creating a European Small Claims Procedure (ESCP) in a report published today.
The move is designed to secure consumers' access to justice and to facilitate the settlement of disputes within the single market. Currently even in Member States, such as the UK, whose courts have special procedures to deal with small claims, problems still arise when it comes to enforcing judgments in other countries.
The ESCP would provide a simplified procedure, with a common set of forms, designed to deal with cross-border cases. A judgment given under the ESCP would be directly enforceable in other Member States.
Recommendations in the report include:
The ESCP should be limited to cross-border disputes. It is not the role of the Community to reform Member States' civil judicial procedures in the absence of a cross-border dimension.
2,000 EURO limit on claims is acceptable. This limit could be raised in cases where the court and all parties agree.
Use of IT such as an online service must be an alternative not mandatory to ensure lack of IT knowledge is not a barrier to justice. A written procedure should be the norm.
Courts should be firm in refusing oral hearings where this would put either party at a financial or personal disadvantage, preventing people having to travel across Europe to attend hearings.
A party in the ESCP should not be exposed to costs over which they have no control or the limit of which cannot be easily calculated from the outset. Liability to costs should be capped at 20% of the value of the claim.
Commenting, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, Chairman of EU Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions), said:
"We welcome this move by the European Union to introduce small claim protection across Member States.
"People are increasingly exercising a choice about where in the EU they spend their money and it is important they can feel secure and can obtain redress if things go wrong.
"This simplification and standardisation of the cross-border small claims procedure is an important step in strengthening confidence when shopping abroad, whether directly or, for example, via the Internet.
"There are some improvements to the proposals which we have suggested to ensure the process is as straightforward and simple as possible. For example we feel strongly that the bulk of cases should be dealt with via a written procedure to prevent claimants having to make lengthy and costly trips across Europe to attend hearings."
Notes to Editors
1. The members of House of Lords European Union Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) who produced the report are:
Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood
Lord Lucas of Crudwell and Dingwall
Lord Lester of Herne Hill
Lord Neill of Bladen
Lord Norton of Louth
2. The Report is published by The Stationery Office:
European Small Claims Procedure, 23rd Report of Session 2005/06, HL Paper 118, ISDN 010 400817 2, Price £20.00
3. The full report will be available shortly after publication on the internet at:
For copies of the report please contact: Owen Williams, Press and Publicity Officer (Committees) on 020 7219 8659.