On 26 May 2020, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) held an online seminar on ‘Implementation of the European Small Claims Procedure (ESCP) in Belgium: Opportunities and Challenges’. This online event was organised and hosted by Dr. Marco Giacalone, Prof. Gina Gioia, PhD candidate Sajedeh Salehi and Prof. Paul De Hert, as part of a series of activities for the Small Claims Analysis Net (SCAN) project. The main objective of this webinar was to enhance awareness – among citizens – about the potentials of the ESCP to provide consumers with an efficient and facilitated enforcement of their rights by enabling citizens to seek justice through a simplified and expedited cross-border procedural redress mechanism, particularly in Belgium.
The event initiated by Dr. Marco Giacalone explaining about the European Small Claims Procedure Regulation 861/2007, the SCAN project, its objectives and activities followed by introducing the experts’ panel of the webinar. Professor Pablo Cortes, as the first speaker, delivered his presentation on ‘The Pursue of Early Settlements in the ESCP — Lessons from the English Small Claims Procedure’ discussing the key causes that explain the lack of use of the ESCP. In his presentation prof. Cortes examined the new Small Claims Procedure in England as an example that is being used for early settlements. This presentation was then concluded by making a number of suggestions on how some of the features of the English model could be applied to the ESCP with a view to improve its efficiency and awareness. The next speaker, Justice Henri Colman, discussed his years of experience as a judge in dealing with the ESCP cases and uncontested claims, implementation of the ESCP in Belgian courts while highlighting the existing challenges – i.e. the lack of sufficient technological facilities in the courts – that hinder the efficient implementation of this regulatory tool. The presentation of the last panellist, Ms. Margarita Synanidi from the European Consumer Centre of Belgium (ECC Belgium), was given on the Practical burdens that consumers face in using the ESCP in Belgium that was in particular focused on the reasons behind the limited use of the European Small Claims procedure Regulation in Belgium. In this consumer protection-oriented presentation, Ms. Synanidi emphasized on the existing obstacles (i.e. lack of awareness, language barriers and related procedural costs) that prevent consumers from using the ESCP for their low value claims that has ended up with the limited use of the ESCP in Belgium.
The Webinar was concluded by Professor Gina Gioia providing her final remarks on the topics of presentations. Prof. Gioia emphasized on the necessity for considering the relationship between the constitutional laws and their impact on intriguing more serious implementation of the ESCP, the role of the consumer centres in raising awareness among citizens about this Procedure and the necessity to overcome the existing obstacles on the way of efficient implementation of the ESCP in Belgium and other EU Member States.