The parliament has recently adopted a draft law (‘the Draft’) changing and completing the civil procedure code (‘CPC’). The draft provides numerous changes to the CPC. Especially, it contains practice-oriented regulations about the electronic communication of documents within civil procedures, which are discussed below.
Introduction: Communication of documents within civil procedures
Whenever a procedural document (eg. an action) must be sent to a party in a way that can be proved, it is usually sent officially by the court via a notification (comunicare). It is of utmost importance to prove that documents have reached their recipient, as well as the moment thereof, since this implies, among other things, keeping deadlines.
Of course, notifications are extremely important, according to the CPC. A good example is the procedure for bringing an action. With the current CPC, a written preliminary proceeding was introduced, which generates the clarification of important aspects even before the hearing deadline. The following must happen before the first hearing date:
- Verification of the action’s compliance with the requirements of the legal civil proceeding;
- Notification of the action to the defendant, who has a 25 day period for submitting a written statement of defence;
- Communication of the defendant’s statement of defence to the plaintiff immediately after its submission; the plaintiff must respond within 10 days;
- Setting the first court session after the receipt of the plaintiff’s reply to the statement of defence) or after the expiry of a 10 day-deadline, however no later than 60 days afterwards.
The current CPC has shifted an important part of the administrative trial phase to the period before the first court session. This aims at informing all parties about the status of the dispute and of the parties’ points of view, which speeds up the trial process.
Electronic communication of procedural documents
The current CPC states that the communication of procedural documents is possible via fax or electronic mail (e-mail), if the receipt and a receipt confirmation are guaranteed and the party involved has delivered the information required for this purpose.
At the moment, however, together with the documents, a form which must contain the following mandatory data has to be sent: name of the court, date of notification, name and signature of the clerk in charge with the communication and the information about the communicated documents. On receipt, the person responsible for receiving the documents must return the form to the court via fax, e-mail or other means, after completing it with the date of receipt as well as the recipient’s name and signature.
The draft simplifies notifications, as it abolishes this ‘sent/received’ form. Each court will use a unique extended electronic signature which will replace both the court stamp and the clerk’s signature.
The procedural documents will be considered to be received when the system used confirms that they have reached the recipient according to the information provided by him; the receipt confirmation is printed and attached to the file as proof of notification.
The communication of documents via e-mail or fax
The current CPC is not yet fully up to date with regard to electronic communication. Article 183, paragraph 1 states that for the observance of certain procedure deadlines, it is necessary to send the documents via registered letters, fast courier or specialised notification services.
The Draft adds to the CPC that procedural documents are considered to be communicated in time if sent via e-mail or fax within the applicable deadline. The proof of receipt issued by the fax machine or the computer of the court will count as a proof of the communication, as well as of the actual time and date of reception.
The new changes to the code of civil procedure simplify the electronic communication of documents, thus reducing cost and time.
Since the courts are still overburdened because of the high number of proceedings, lack of personnel and poor infrastructure, there is no doubt the new rule is highly desirable and its entry into force will be welcomed.