Commercial Courts and Justices of the Peace given new powers

Commercial Courts and Justices of the Peace given new powers

Effective 1 July 2014, the Commercial Courts and the Justices of the Peace have received a number of new powers.
 
For the Commercial Courts, the most important change is that their authority to adjudicate disputes between “merchants” was expanded to apply to “undertakings”, and this regardless of the amount of the dispute. These are disputes “between all persons engaged in an economic activity, which relate to an action that is performed within the framework of this activity and which do not fall under the special authority of other courts of law.” The broader concept of “undertaking” includes not only “merchants” but also all those who exercise a liberal profession.
 
The Justice of the Peace hereby loses a part of his general authority to decide commercial disputes that do not exceed the amount of 2,500 EUR. Only a private individual (non-undertaking) still has the option of bringing such a dispute before the Justice of the Peace. Any clause that deprives him of this freedom of choice and that was drawn up before the dispute arose is invalid.
 
The summary proceeding to obtain an order of payment (art. 1388 of the Judicial Code) now also falls within the authority of the Commercial Court. This fast-tracked procedure seeks to make it easier for creditors to collect small debts, and until recently it came within the jursidiction of the Justice of the Peace.
 
The Justices of the Peace also receive a new power, however, since they are henceforth competent to decide on all claims by providers of utilities such as electricity, water or gas against natural persons who have remained in default of payment, regardless of the amount of the dispute. The Court of First Instance therefore loses jurisdiction in this type of dispute as of 2,500 EUR. The Justice of the Peace of the domicile of the natural person in question has territorial jurisdiction.
 
Nothing changes for cases that were made pending prior to 1 July 2014: they will continue to be handled by the Court that had jurisdiction for it under the provisions applicable at the earlier time.