No provision is made in the rules of civil procedure for a specific small claims procedure. There is however the special procedural provision of Section 495a ZPO, which does provide for a simplified procedure. According to this, the court can determine its procedure in its reasonable discretion provided that the contested value does not exceed €600.
The abovementioned threshold value of €600 is conclusive. The rules of civil procedure contain no further restriction as to the applicability of the procedure (e.g. only particular kinds of litigation).
As already explained, the court can in such a case determine its procedure in its reasonable discretion, and can in particular make use of particular procedural simplifications. The court is not however obliged to do so and can therefore proceed in accordance with the usual provisions even in the case of contested values of less than €600.
If the court designs its procedure in accordance with its unrestricted discretion, the parties cannot oppose this. Their only option is to apply for an oral hearing.
No special forms are used.
The general rules apply, because the procedure has only been simplified in its form. Parties who are not legally represented thus receive assistance on procedural matters in the same way as parties who are legally represented. It is for example permissible in Germany, in proceedings in the District Courts, to submit the claim orally for it to be written down by the court office. A legally represented party is also at liberty to make a statement to be written down, rather than filing it through his lawyer.
Whether or not a party is legally represented likewise does not in any way change the nature and extent of the court's obligations to give explanations and indications. According to law, the court is obliged to discuss the proceedings in legal and factual terms and to explain them.
The court is not restricted to the otherwise usual ways of taking evidence. Contrary to the principle of directness which otherwise applies and which means an examination of the witness, expert or party before the trial court in the presence of the parties, the court may, in the simplified procedure, arrange in particular for witnesses, experts and parties to be questioned by telephone or in writing.
An exclusively written procedure is possible. However, on application by either party, there must be an oral hearing.
The content of the judgment is simpler than with normal procedures. This has to do with the fact that there is in principle no appeal against judgments relating to contested values of up to €600.
For example, the description of the facts can be omitted. It is also possible to refrain from setting out the grounds for the decision if the parties do not require them or if the main content thereof is included in the court record. Because of the requirements of international legal relations, however, reasons for the judgment cannot be dispensed with if it is expected that the judgment will be asserted abroad (Section 313a (4) (5) of the Rules of Civil Procedure).
If, exceptionally, an appeal is admitted, which is a matter for the judge's discretion, the general provisions apply to the content of the judgment.
There are no restrictions on the reimbursement of costs and the general provisions apply.
In principle, there is no possibility of appealing against judgments in respect of contested values of up to €600. However, an appeal is, exceptionally, admissible if the court of first instance gave leave to appeal in the judgment, if the matter is of fundamental importance or if the development of the law or the guaranteeing of consistent case law requires a decision by the appeal court.
If the appeal is not admissible, the proceedings must, on complaint by the party against whom the judgment is given, be continued in the court of first instance if the court of first instance has contravened the right to due process in a manner which is material to the decision.
Last update: 15-06-2006