On 12 July 2016, four bills were adopted by the Senate in the context of the KEI-programme with the aim of digitizing, improving and also simplifying civil and administrative procedures. Publication of the legislative proposals in the Bulletin of Acts and Decrees (‘Staatsblad’) followed on 21 July 2016. For an overview of the KEI-bills see the previously published blog ‘KEI: Digitization of the justice system’.
To ensure that professionals like lawyers and bailiffs become familiar with the changes, an adjustment period of six months has been agreed. Originally, the implementation of the KEI legislation was supposed to take place from 1 February 2017. However, in a recent letter dated 29 November 2016 the Minister of Security and Justice confirmed to the House of Representatives that the Judiciary and the Dutch Bar Association, following consultation, have decided to take at least two extra months. They want to start the mandatory phase of digital litigation only once ‘both parties feel that the system is ready for it ‘. This will be no earlier than 1 April 2017.
Since 1 November 2016, a pre-pilot has been in place at the courts of Gelderland and central Netherlands that allows parties to agree to litigate digitally in civil matters with mandatory legal representation and a stake of more than EUR 25,000. After an evaluation of this pilot by the Judiciary together with the Dutch Bar Association, which is expected in mid-January 2017, they will decide whether to extend the voluntary phase or start implementing the first phase (Civil 1.0) by 1 April 2017.
The KEI legislation will be implemented in five phases, which are defined in a timeline. However, given the recent developments described above, we have assumed that each phase which is described below will start at least two months later than originally planned.
Civil 1.0 – Receivables (first instance) with mandatory legal representation
At the earliest, digital litigation for procedures at first instance with mandatory legal presentation will be rolled out from 1 April 2017. The rollout begins with a pilot in the courts of Gelderland and central Netherlands (‘Midden-Nederland’). Mandatory digital litigation will be introduced five months later nationwide in all courts. This will be no earlier than September 2017.
The Supreme Court is developing its own digital platform and intends to maintain the original start date:1 February 2017.
Civil 2.0 – Claims on appeal
For cases on appeal, digital litigation will be introduced no earlier than September 2017 . The rollout will begin with a pilot at one court, presumably the Court of Appeal of Arnhem-Leeuwarden. At the earliest, mandatory digital litigation will be introduced nationwide in all appeal courts in February 2018.
Civil 3.0 – Claims without mandatory legal representation
For claims without mandatory legal representation, digital litigation will also start with a pilot at two courts. This is planned for autumn 2018. The national rollout is expected to take place five months later, in January/February 2019. Digital litigation for claim procedures before district courts is only mandatory for legal entities and professional attorneys. People who litigate without representation are not obliged to do so digitally.
Civil 4.0 – Application procedures
In April 2019, the rollout of digital litigation in application procedures is scheduled, with – again – a small-scale pilot project at first, followed by a national rollout (scheduled for September 2019). Once “KEI” applies to the application procedures, combined (claim and application in one) procedures may be brought.
Civil 5.0 – Preliminary relief proceedings
It is expected that the introduction (first a pilot and then national rollout) scheduled for preliminary relief proceedings will take place in April 2019.
The above raises the question of how the transitional law will be regulated with regard to the new legislation. When it comes to claims which have been served with a writ against the defendant and submitted to the civil courts before the day the KEI legislation comes into effect, the old law applies. If the day of service or filing falls on or after the date the KEI legislation comes into effect, the new law applies (see Kamerstukken II 2014/15, 34 059, 3 , p. 119).