From early January 2013 parties to all current or future litigation before Romanian courts must prove they attended a mediation meeting to be informed about the advantages of mediation.
As of 1 October 2012 all parties to current or pending litigation must attend a meeting before an authorised mediator to be informed about the advantages of settling the dispute via mediation. The law requires attending the meeting, even if no actual mediation commences and no agreement is reached.
From 10 January 2013 all Romanian courts will check whether registered parties have attended an information meeting. Failure to attend this meeting is subject to a fine, decided by the judge, of between €10 – €250. Proof of attendance should be conformed by minutes issued by the mediator who held the meeting. Claimants who fail to attend this information meeting risk a judge ordering a stay of proceedings until a meeting is attended. To resume proceedings, claimants must pay 50% of the court duties due by them.
In an information meeting the mediator presents the advantages of mediation; the meeting should be no longer than half on hour. Usually the meetings take place at the mediator’s office and are attended by all parties. During the meeting the mediator will not take any step towards actual mediation. The mediator has no right to a fee for the information meeting and each party will bear its own costs for attending.
It should be noted that parties do not have to actually pursue mediation and, once they have attended the information meeting, they may (i) continue with the current case, or (ii) if the case has not started yet, continue submitting their claim to court.
As well as attending the information meeting, before registering a commercial claim, a claimant must try to meet the defendant to attempt settlement of its claim out of court. Such an attempt may be made either by calling the defendant to a face-to-face meeting, or to an actual mediation. It is very likely that by mid-2013 the rules will change again and, in commercial disputes, attending the information meeting will suffice. However, until such further amendments enter into force, attending the information meeting must accompany an attempt at conciliation or an actual mediation.
For most of the cases (even if the proceedings are quite advanced) parties may attend an actual mediation and, if they settle their dispute, they may apply to have the court duties repaid. Some exceptions from repayment are provided by law, especially when real estate property or inheritances are subject to the dispute.
How things will actually work: who invites who, and where …
For current litigation, the claimant or defendant (most likely the claimant to avoid its claim being stayed) may ask a mediator to organise an information meeting. To avoid procedural incidents, this avenue should be pursued during November or December 2012 because from early January 2013, judges will invite the parties to prove their attendance at information meetings. Since mediators are not entitled to a fee for organising information meetings this phase should be time-and money-friendly. The choice of mediator is at the party’s discretion, and the invited party cannot deny the chosen mediator. However, after the information meeting, parties may jointly appoint another mediator to organise an actual mediation meeting if they wish.
For future litigation, the claimant must choose a mediator and the mediator will contact the defendant for the information meeting. The parties must attend or propose another meeting. Failure to attend information meetings may lead to fines as mentioned above, and do not prevent the claimant registering its claim.