German justice ministers call for reform of mass procedural system

According to the JuMiKo resolution (PDF / 119 KB – in German), the increase in the number of court employees and the digitization of courts alone will not solve the problems associated with the increase in the number of mass proceedings. He therefore asked the Federal Minister of Justice to initiate a corresponding reform package.

Mass actions, in which the interests of a large number of affected consumers are brought together and represented in court, have been increasing in Germany for years. According to experts, this is mainly due to the fact that legal technology companies and claims management companies specializing in this area are reaching out to affected consumers with advertising. Modern technology allows these companies to bring together similar cases and jointly represent the interests of consumers in court. In return, they usually charge a success fee. This is considered attractive to consumers, especially if their damages are so minimal that they avoid individual legal proceedings and the associated costs.

“Claims management companies and legal technology platforms can make it easier for consumers to access justice with low threshold offers in certain areas and reduce costs. In addition, they can open up new areas of activity for small and medium-sized enterprises, ”said the Bavarian Minister of Justice. Georg Eisenreich, on whose initiative the JuMiKo resolution is based. In these mass proceedings, however, there are sometimes “unnecessary additional burdens on the courts and unnecessary delays”. Standardized pleadings often have little to do with the individual case, appendices are not always assigned correctly and court questions often go unanswered, he said.

The JuMiKo proposed a revision of German civil law, civil procedure law, law on professional and legal services as well as laws on fees and expenses. This review should examine whether legislative changes in these areas would mean that legal disputes can be resolved more quickly. This would go beyond the idea of ​​a new preliminary ruling procedure in class actions by the German Supreme Court, which was outlined by the JuMiKo this summer. The resolution leaves open the question of what exactly the reforms might look like, but clarifies that citizens’ rights should not be limited.

Eisenreich said: “The effective enforceability of consumer rights is important. However, the current legal situation is leading to an unnecessary drain on precious judicial resources. Courts need legal tools to deal with mass claims within a deadline. reasonable.”

According to Johanna Weißbach, Litigation Expert at Pinsent Masons, Eisenreich’s assessment is in line with current views of courts and judges themselves. As reported by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (article in German), nine presidents of the Augsburg regional court wrote a “flaming letter” to the Munich higher regional court, stressing that the increasing number of mass proceedings was causing overwork and affecting mental health and motivation. In its letter, the court said that the professional image of judges is fundamentally changing and the regional court is turning into a simple “water heater”.

“The district court in Frankfurt am Main has made similar statements: The court is currently facing a wave of lawsuits against the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority of Germany, which is being prosecuted in connection with the insolvency of Wirecard, ”said Weißbach. “There are already 1,500 pending cases, and many more trials have been announced. The presiding judge indicated that the workload could hardly be supported with the current number of judges.”

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