On 31 October 2017, significant amendments to the Civil Procedure Code (“CPC”) came into force, which affect almost all areas covered by the CPC.
Service of documents
Court officials are now obliged to attempt to serve court documents to a party in proceedings at least three times within a month, and at least once during a weekend over the course of one month. If the party cannot be found, or if it is established that the party does not live at its official address, court officials will be instructed to serve documents at the party’s workplace or place of business. Moreover, procedural terms shall be suspended during official holidays and during official court recess in summer.
Private enforcement agents are now permitted to serve non-court documents (previously carried out by notaries public), and a may be specifically requested by creditors.
Fees on joint claims
State court fees are now based on the claim value rather than being calculated in relation to the number of parties to the proceedings. Where there are multiple defendants in a claim, claimants will now only have to pay a single state court fee.
New rules on appeal before Supreme Court of Cassation
Previously the CPC only allowed restricted access to the Supreme Court of Cassation, so the appellants have to argue that there is an issue of law–decided contrary to compulsory case law of the Supreme Court of Cassation, in a contradictory manner or where the decision is important for the development of the law.
The CPC now allows for admission to the Supreme Court of Cassation: where a decision is contrary to the case law of the Supreme Court of Cassation, the Bulgarian Constitutional Court or Court of Justice of the European Union case law (in this case, conflicting decisions between lower courts will no longer grounds for admission); it is important for the development of the law; or where a decision is potentially invalid, inadmissible or apparently unfounded.
Amendments to enforcement procedures
The changes to the CPC introduce significant changes to the enforcement procedure under the CPC.
In 2007, the CPC adopted a new process for commencing enforcement procedures, which have now been significantly modified with the recent amendments.
- A creditor may obtain enforcement order unless: the debtor files opposition, or the debtor has been served notice in its absence. The debtor is allowed to render payment in the term for filing opposition, the creditor is obliged to give statement and not to file claim
Other amendments include:
- Challenges to the actions of enforcement agents – the creditor or debtor may now request that the enforcement agent prepares a new assessment of the value of the asset subject to enforcement, and if the enforcement agent refuses, both the creditor and the debtor can appeal;
- Debtors’ rights to appeal a refusal by enforcement agents to suspend or terminate enforcement proceedings;
- The requirement for enforcement to be proportionate to the amount in debt, taking into account all circumstances such as the behaviour of the debtor and the risk of non-payment (non-proportionate enforcement may lead to damages being payable by liability of the enforcement agent);
- Cap on enforcement fees;
- Limits on the value of bids received on property where the assets being valued by enforcement agents are real estate;
- Changes to means of enforcement, such as conducting public tenders electronically (such details to be elaborated upon in secondary legislation to be prepared by the Ministry of Justice); and
- Rules on enforcement on intellectual property and assets of a going concern.