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Electronic litigation becomes mandatory in 2016: are you ready?

Hungary: As of 1 July, parties represented by legal counsel as well as economic organizations may only maintain communication with courts electronically.

Mandatory electronic communication was to be introduced from 1 January. However, at the last minute the legislator postponed it for another six months to allow more time for preparation.

What does electronic communication or e-litigation mean?

As of July, the statement of claim as well as all other filings and documentary evidence can be filed only online via the official electronic communication portal by filling out the required form accompanied by at least advanced electronic signatures. The court will also deliver documents electronically: first a message will arrive on the recipient’s email address and then documents can be downloaded from the electronic communication portal. If documents are not downloaded within five working days, service will automatically be presumed. There is one important exception: the court will continue to deliver the statement of claim to the defendant by post.

In what cases is it mandatory?

In all civil proceedings, in particular in actions lodged after order for payment proceedings, in proceedings for review of an administrative decision, in actions in protection of possession as well as in bankruptcy and liquidation proceedings and actions related to civil organizations. Exceptions are pending cases: in these matters communication with the court can continue on paper.

For whom is electronic communication mandatory?

All economic organizations having their registered seat in Hungary as well as parties represented by legal counsel. Only natural persons acting in person can continue to file documents on paper.

What are the consequences if documents are not filed electronically?

The court will reject the statement of claim without issuing a writ of summons while other filings will be ineffective: the court will treat them as if they had not occurred. The court will also impose fines.

The question is whether the current half year will be enough to prepare and overcome existing problems. Although the parties could already choose e-litigation, the option was hardly used. Many law firms and companies did not take advantage of the opportunity because only natural persons can register with the electronic portal. Thus, practically no one can act as a substitute for an appointed lawyer.

Despite its deficiencies e-litigation is a positive initiative: it can result in fast, flexible and environmentally friendly court proceedings.

Source: Act III. of 1952 on the Code of Civil Procedure, rules applicable as of 1 January 2016