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European Union

In general, Regulation (EC) No 1393/2007 on service of documents in civil and commercial matters between Member States of the European Union provides that documents must be served by the receiving agency using methods allowed according to the law of the Member State where the documents will be served. A proposal to amend the regulation adopted by the European Commission in May 2018 would introduce the possibility to serve documents directly via email using qualified electronic registered delivery services.

I. Introduction

In 2007, the European Union (EU) adopted a regulation that deals with the service of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil and commercial matters between Member States of the EU.[1] A regulation is directly applicable in the EU Member States.[2] The regulation on service of documents aims to improve and expedite the service of documents between the EU countries and provides standardized forms in the annex. It does not apply to revenue, customs, or administrative matters, or to the liability of the state for actions or omissions in the exercise of state authority.[3] Although initially excluded from applying the regulation, Denmark informed the European Commission of its intention to implement the content of the regulation on November 20, 2007.[4]

II. Regulation (EC) No 1393/2007 on Service of Documents Between Member States

A. Agencies Responsible for Transmitting and Receiving Documents

Each EU Member State must designate an agency responsible for transmitting judicial and extrajudicial documents to be served in another Member State and for receiving such documents from another Member State.[5] Member States may appoint two different agencies or one agency to perform both functions.[6] Federal states, states with different legal systems, or states with autonomous territories may designate more than one agency.[7] Information on these agencies, including name, address, geographical area of jurisdiction, and languages to be used for the standard form, must be provided to the European Commission.[8] Designations must be renewed every five years.[9]

In addition, a central body must be appointed.[10] The central body supplies information to the transmitting agencies, helps to resolve problems that may arise during the transmission of documents, and, as an exception, forwards requests for service to the competent receiving agency at the request of a transmitting agency.[11]

B. Service of Documents in General

Documents are transmitted between the respective agencies of the EU as soon as possible and must be accompanied by a standard request form provided in annex I of the regulation.[12] Agencies may use any mode of transmission, such as email or fax, provided the content of the document is truthfully and faithfully represented and the information is easily legible.[13] No legalization of documents is necessary.[14] The applicant must furnish a translation of the document into a language that the addressee understands or into the official language of the Member State where service will take place.[15]

The receiving agency must send a receipt within seven days.[16] If any information or documents necessary for the service of the documents are missing, the receiving agency must contact the transmitting agency as fast as possible.[17] Service of documents will be performed by the receiving agency itself or by someone on behalf of the agency in accordance with the law of the Member State in which the service takes place or according to a method requested by the transmitting agency, if allowed under the respective Member State law.[18] Service of documents must take place as soon as possible or at the latest within one month.[19] A certificate of completion along with, if necessary, a copy of the document will be sent to the transmitting agency.[20] In general, the service of documents is free for the applicant, except when judicial officers are used or when a particular method of service is requested.[21]

Recipients may refuse to accept service if the translation does not conform to the requirements set out above.[22] Such a refusal must be declared within a week.[23] The receiving agency must inform the recipient in advance, in writing, of the existence of the right of refusal using the standard form provided in annex II.[24] A missing translation may be submitted later, and the date of service of the documents will be adjusted accordingly.[25] However, if the date is important for meeting a deadline set by the law of a Member State for serving documents, the date of service of the initial documents will be controlling.[26]

C. Service of Documents by Other Means

In exceptional circumstances, documents may be transmitted via consular or diplomatic channels to the receiving agency in the Member State where service will be effected.[27] Documents may also be served directly by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt, or via the judicial officers, officials, or other competent persons of the EU country addressed, if this is permitted by the country in question.[28]

D. Commission Proposal to Amend (EC) No 1393/2007

In May 2018, the European Commission published a proposal to amend Regulation 1393/2007.[29] Among other things, the amendment would introduce the possibility to serve documents via email as an additional alternative method of service equivalent to the service of documents by post.[30] Applicants would be able to send documents directly from the user account to the recipient’s account, provided qualified electronic registered delivery services are used or, if documents are served after the legal proceedings have started, the addressee gave express consent to the court to be served via email.[31]

Furthermore, the proposal introduces the possibility to require the defendant to appoint a representative for service of documents in the Member State where the judicial proceedings are taking place after the document initiating the proceedings have been served.[32] As an alternative to appointing a representative, service via email as explained above may be used.[33]

Lastly, if the defendant does not appear in court, the proposal provides that “reasonable efforts shall be made to inform the defendant through any available channels of communication, including means of modern communication technology, for which an address or an account is known to the court seised, that court proceedings have been instituted against him or her.”[34]

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Prepared by Jenny Gesley
Foreign Law Specialist
September 2020


[1] Consolidated Version of Regulation (EC) No 1393/2007, 2007 O.J. (L 324) 79, https://perma.cc/NYT2-VHGL.

[2] Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), art. 288, para. 2, 2016 O.J. (C 202) 47, https://perma.cc/4FWQ-996H.

[3] Regulation (EC) No 1393/2007, art. 1.

[4] Id. art. 1, para. 3; Agreement Between the European Community and the Kingdom of Denmark on the Service of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, 2008 (L 331) 21, https://perma.cc/4LWZ-AL9N.

[5] Regulation (EC) No 1393/2007, art. 2, paras. 1, 2. The competent national agencies may be searched on the website of the European E-Justice Portal at https://perma.cc/V9FL-GVCB.

[6] Id. art. 2, para. 3.

[7] Id.

[8] Id. art. 2, para. 4.

[9] Id. art. 2, para. 3.

[10] Id. art. 3.

[11] Id.

[12] Id. art. 4, paras. 1, 3.

[13] Id. art. 4, para. 2.

[14] Id. art. 4, para. 4.

[15] Id. arts. 5, 8.

[16] Id. art. 6, para. 1.

[17] Id. art. 6, para. 2.

[18] Id. art. 7, para. 1.

[19] Id. art. 7, para. 2.

[20] Id. art. 10, para. 1.

[21] Id. art. 11.

[22] Id. art. 5, para. 1; art. 8.

[23] Id. art. 8, para. 1.

[24] Id.

[25] Id. art. 8, para. 3.

[26] Id.

[27] Id. art. 12.

[28] Id. arts. 14, 15.

[29] COM(2018) 379 final (May 31, 2018), https://perma.cc/94DG-63VL.

[30] Id. at 22, art. 15a.

[31] Id.

[32] Id. at 21, art. 7a.

[33] Id. art. 7a, para. 2.

[34] Id. at 24, art. 19, para. 3.

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020