Simplified Collection Claim Processing in GermanyOriginally published: Friday, May 12, 2000
By Kerstin Grote*
Since 1978, German courts may process money claims through a computer supported system that benefits both plaintiffs and defendants. Compared to traditional litigation, the computer-aided processing system known as Mahnverfahren can result in fewer costs and speedier judgment while preserving traditional due process rights through the available option of applying the standard procedures.
Foreign claimants may also use this process. Considering the sometimes bewildering German system for measuring court costs and attorney fees, U.S. claimants may prefer this type of action. Cases requiring a service of process abroad or under SOFA are not eligible, however, for this procedure.
Local courts (Amtsgerichte) have jurisdiction over the simplified collection claim processing, depending on the residence of the petitioner. The Schöneberg court in Berlin has general jurisdiction for foreign claimants (§ 689 ZPO = Rules of Civil Procedure).
The simplified collection claim process requires the petitioner to file a petition with a special form or to use a data transmission process. For details, see e.g. Die maschinelle Bearbeitung der Mahnverfahren in Baden-Württemberg, p. 9, 53 (Simplified Collection Claim Processing in Baden-Württemberg, Justizministerium Baden-Württemberg; I am grateful to Rechtsanwalt Hanno Reinert, Esq., Reinert, Appy & Partner, Karlsruhe, Germany, www.raplaw.de, for providing this instructional pamphlet.). Court costs do not need to be paid in advance. (Die maschinelle Bearbeitung aaO, p. 6)
The computer data processing program checks the application for completeness, jurisdiction, supplied documentary evidence and, if possible, for accuracy. Depending on the amount involved, the process follows different paths. In the event that the money claim is higher than the average claim, the application would be reviewed by a court registrar. (Die maschinelle Bearbeitung aaO, p.17); otherwise, review and approval are automated.
In the event that the application has deficiencies, the claimant receives a form to supplement the application and processing is held in abeyance. (Die maschinelle Bearbeitung aaO, p. 18)
Upon approval of the petition, a court will serve upon the respondent a payment order and form for lodging an objection (§ 693 ZPO). The payment order known as Mahnbescheid reminds the respondent to pay his debt. The payment order states the money claim, interest, attorney fees and court costs. The payment order also tolls the applicable statute of limitations of Sections 195, 196, 197 Civil Code (BGB)).
The debtor may object to the payment order until the court would grant an execution order. The respondent may object informally or use the supplied form. In that case, the process switches automatically to the standard procedure allowing for full review by the court after hearing and evidentiary procedures (§ 694 ZPO). In that manner, the process preserves the traditional due process rights. In the event that the respondent fails to object within two weeks, the petitioner may apply for an execution order (§ 699 ZPO).
The execution order will be served by the petitioner himself or the court (§ 699 ZPO). In the event that the debtor does not object to the execution order within another two weeks, the creditor may enforce the order like an enforceable judgment (§ 700 ZPO).
*Kerstin Grote received her law degree from the University of Hannover, Germany, in 1997. In the summer of 2000 she was interning with Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe, LLP, Washington D.C.
Update 2002: Internet processing are possible in 2002, and a complete link list to processors and rules is available here. CK
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