February 2014 saw the UK government back measures to increase the use of the European Small Claims Procedure (“ESCP”).

Introduced by EC Regulation 861/2007, the ESCP provides for cross-border claims with a value of up to €2,000 to be brought by legal and natural persons, with recognition of resulting judgments across member states for ease of enforcement.

The ESCP provides standard forms and time limits for litigants and the court, with its aim being to expedite and streamline the disposal of small claims.

Despite the ESCP being in force for over 5 years, the small claims procedure is underused and is relatively unheard of amongst litigants of civil and commercial disputes.

Pursuant to a protocol of the Treaty of Amsterdam 1997, the UK, along with Ireland has an “opt-in” entitlement with regards to legislative measures for judicial cooperation.

In backing the government’s decision, Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling in a February ministerial statement explained the government’s decision to back the new measures, with the exception of court fee levels, stating:

“the Government acknowledges the value of an effective cross-border small claims procedure and welcomes the opportunity this revision of the Regulation brings to improve it. It recognises that an increase in the threshold is likely to be of benefit to potential users of the procedure and could allow more businesses to use it.”

The new measures envisage an increase in the small claims cap from €2,000.00 to €10,000.00, capped court fees (10% of the claim value) and a widened definition of cross border claims, as well as an increased use of Information Technology.

For more information read the ministerial written statement here.