New court fees structure for lower demands

The Minister for Legal Protection intends to amend the court fees for smaller demands. The court fees for demands between €500 and €5,000 in civil cases in the first instance will soon be lowered. In lowering the court fees, the minister is acknowledging the criticisms voiced ever since they were raised in 2011, which led to claims that fees at the current level restrict access to the courts.

A much-heard complaint from small and medium-sized enterprises as well as bailiffs pertains to the court fee of €467 that they are obliged to pay for demands of just over €500. As a result, these parties regularly refrain from going to court on account of unpaid bills that slightly exceed €500. Other complaints concern private individuals who have lost collection proceedings against a legal entity (such as a company) often being ordered to pay a higher court fee than that imposed on the legal entity as the claimant. By lowering the court fees, the minister also wishes to address this objection.

This information emerged from a letter that Minister Dekker sent to the House of Representatives. The letter further elaborated on a previous proposal to reduce court fees for lower demands. Moreover, the minister proposes two new amendments to address the objections of small and medium-sized enterprises, citizens’ advisers and private individuals.

The solution advocated by the minister is, in brief, to introduce a greater degree of differentiation in fees as well as to lower the fees for both natural persons and legal entities. This change will benefit both groups. Soon, a company demanding €900 will owe court fees of €300, as opposed to €467 currently. For a similar demand, private individuals currently pay €226 in court fees. This amount will be lowered to €200.

Ultimately, lower court fees for legal entities will also benefit natural persons, as a natural person losing a case against a legal entity will owe the lower court fee applicable to the legal entity. The changes to the court fees are to be implemented on a budget-neutral basis, meaning that fees for demands of €5,000 and over (in the first instance) will be subject to higher court fees in order to offset the reduced fees for lower demands.