As per the 25th of April 2014 dutch employment law attorneys are allowed to start a procedure before the e-court. All communication with regard to this e-court procedure will in principle be digital. In principle a hearing will be held, unless parties decide otherwise. The e-court rules in principle within 8 weeks after the procedure has been started with a petition. There is no possibility of appeal.
E-court in Rotterdam and Den Bosch
The e-court is available for all employers and employees regardless of where they live or where they are vested, but at the moment hearings take only place in Rotterdam or Den Bosch. Parties may choose whether they prefer Rotterdam or Den Bosch.
As it is a requirement that it must concern a case for which normally the subdistrict court would be the competent court the e-court is in principle possible for most procedures between an employer and an employee. For procedures between an employer and a statutory director however the e-court is not an option as for such procedures the subdistrict court has no jurisdiction.
E-court only for simple cases
The e-court only rules over relatively simple cases. The dispute itself must be simple. Furthermore, it should in principle be possible to rule on the basis of the documents present, being the petition of the applicant including possible attachments, the defense of the defendant including possible attachments and any possible additional documents. The e-court has no possibility to do comprehensive further fact finding.
Only if parties agree upon the e-court
It is only possible to start a procedure before the e-court if both the applicant and the defendant agree upon the digital procedure. Furthermore, parties should give up the right to appeal as the e-court procedure is aimed to be a final dispute resolution.
The e-court procedure has a gatekeeper. The gatekeeper checks whether both the applicant and the defendant agree upon the e-court procedure and whether the dispute is suitable for being ruled by the e-court. Only if this is the case a petition can be filed.
The defendant may make a counterclaim against the applicant. The counterclaim should be introduced in the phase before the gatekeeper. It is not possible to introduce it at a later time. The counterclaim must relate to the subject of the initial request. The counterclaim must also meet the criteria for admission to the e-court procedure. If the counterclaim does not, then the counterclaim is not admitted.
If the claim of the applicant is admitted, but the counterclaim of the defendant not, the defendant is given the opportunity to refrain from his or her agreement with the e-court procedure.
In the petition the applicant may defend itself against a possible counterclaim of the defendant. The applicant is aware of a possible counterclaim prior to filing the petition, because a counterclaim may only be introduced in the phase before the petition is filed. When filing the petition the applicant indicates the dates upon which the applicant and the defendant are not in a position to attend a hearing.
Hearing and defense
After filing the petition a hearing will be scheduled, unless the applicant and the defendant agreed that no hearing will take place. In case a hearing takes place the defense, including possible attachments, and any possible other relevant documents must be submitted no later than five working days before the hearing. If necessary, the e-court will ask the applicant and/or the defendant to further substantiate the facts before the hearing.
Communication in principle fully digital
Since it is a digital procedure all communication will in principle take place digitally, meaning that all documents, including the petition and defense and possible attachments, will be submitted digitally. Currently, merely attorneys and lawyers working for a legal insurance company have access to the digital procedure. It is intended that the procedure before the e-court will become soon available for anyone other than attorneys and lawyers working for a legal insurance company. This is expected to happen in the summer of 2014.
The ruling can also be downloaded from the digital file. However, unlike the other documents it is also possible to request a paper copy of the ruling. Upon request a paper copy of the ruling will be provided. Such a paper copy is required if the other party does not voluntarily comply with the ruling as the bailiff needs the paper copy for execution of the ruling.