In January 2008, a so-called Small Claims Procedure was introduced in Denmark – a new and easier procedure for the processing of smaller claims by the Danish courts.
Some of the advantages of the Small Claims Procedure as opposed to a "standard court case” are:
- That the case can be processed faster and more problem-free than a "standard court case”.
- That the court attends to the preparation of the case, which is why legal assistance is not necessary.
- That, as a basis, appearance at court is only necessary once – for the court hearing itself.
- That it is cheaper to conduct a case under the Small Claims Procedure.
The Small Claims Procedure can be utilised for cases the value of which does not exceed DKK 50,000 corresponding to approx. 6,700 EUR. Interest and costs are not included in the value of the case.
It is a condition, however, that the opposing party contests your claim. If there is no disagreement about the existence of the claim, but only problems in getting the opposing party to fulfil the claim, you should instead make use of the simplified debt recovery procedure (only available in Danish) which you can find at www.domstol.dk.
Lawsuits between a consumer and a business owner must, as a basis, be processed according to the Small Claims Procedure. The process can be deselected by agreement between the parties after the occurrence of the dispute, but not by prior agreement.
Since the preparation and the process are significantly simplified compared to a standard lawsuit, the court can, however, decide that a specific case is not suitable for processing under the Small Claims Procedure and transfer it to the standard process.
Filing a case
A case is filed by filling out the writ of summons form (only available in Danish), which you can find at www.domstol.dk, and submitting it to the appropriate district court. For ordinary consumer cases, this would typically be your own local district court. The form is a standard form, which in addition to information about the parties in the case, need only contain a brief account of the specific and legal circumstances.
Progress of the case
When the court receives the case, a copy of the writ of summons and a response form is sent to the defendant, who must then respond to the court within a specified deadline.
If further information is required for the case, the court will contact the parties by telephone or in writing.
During the preparation of the case, the court will guide the parties, but the court always remains impartial.
When the court assesses that the information is sufficient for the case, a record of the parties’ claims, arguments and evidence is drawn up. The record is sent to both parties, who have the possibility of submitting supplementary comments. If these comments do not give rise to further correspondence, the court sets a date for the hearing.
Both parties must appear for the hearing, which is normally not expected to last more than one to two hours.
Normally, the court delivers the verdict, at the latest, 14 days after the hearing.
Legal assistance and court costs
Since the court attends to the preparation of the case and guides the parties, it is deemed unnecessary to make use of legal assistance for the filing of the case. If you choose to have a lawyer assist you in filing and preparing the case, you must therefore pay the costs for this. Conversely, you do not risk having to pay costs for the opposing party's lawyer prior to the conclusion of preparation if you lose the case.
If one or both parties wish to be represented by a lawyer during the hearing itself, the lawyer can be involved when the court sends the aforementioned record. The party that loses the case pays the costs for this. As a rule, the losing party has to pay both its own and the winning party’s costs in Denmark.
Fixed rates have been established for the costs for a lawyer’s assistance in a Small Claims Procedure. Currently, a lawyer receives DKK 2,700 for cases that do not take more than one hour in court; DKK 4,000 if the case takes two hours and DKK 6,000 if the case takes three hours.
If the case regards a relatively low amount, the rates are even lower – DKK 1,500 if the claim is less than DKK 5,000 and DKK 2,500 if the claim is between DKK 5,000 and DKK 10,000
The Small Claims Procedure for foreigners
Pursuant to the Administration of Justice Act, in Denmark the courts can process cases in all Scandinavian languages. Should it be necessary, the court will ensure translation and interpreting.
Since the documents the court sends can be of significant importance to the case, we recommend that a foreign plaintiff carefully considers who can appear on his or her behalf. It can be expedient if this is a lawyer. However, you should be aware that the costs for a lawyer for the preparation of the case cannot be charged to the opposing party if said party loses the case (see above). Neither are these costs covered by free process. You can read more about free process at www.domstol.dk (only available in Danish).