Procedural Costs Regulation

Law 7/2012, of 13 February, came into force on 29 March 2012, bringing with it the sixth amendment of the Procedural Costs Regulation (RCP) enacted by Decree-Law 34/2008, of 26 February.

The Procedural Costs Regulation applies to proceedings in the judicial courts, the administrative and tax courts, and the national electronic service for requesting orders of payment (Article 2).

This amendment applies to all proceedings commenced after the coming into force of the above-mentioned legislation and to all proceedings pending at the time.

For proceedings initiated prior to 30 March 2012, the wording afforded to the RCP by Law 7/2012 will only apply to acts done after its entry into force, with all the previously made payments being deemed to be valid and effective, even if the wording of the present Law specifies otherwise.

The main innovations of Law 7/2012 lie in the disincentive to vexatious litigation and the standardisation of court fees as the provisions of the present Law apply to all new and pending proceedings.

Article 27(3) was amended to increase the fixed minimum and maximum amounts and it is now possible to impose penalties that will effectively enable us to fight against and disincentivise vexatious litigation.

Another innovation related to reducing the number of pending proceedings is the incentive to extinguish the proceedings at that judicial level as provided for in Article 5. This is a transitory provision which only applies to proceedings initiated or payment orders requested prior to the date of publication of the above-mentioned Law, which terminate by extinguishing the proceedings at that judicial level owing to the withdrawal of the claim, withdrawal from that judicial level, or to the admission or settlement of the claim. In these specific cases, the payment of the court fees and charges owed by the party or parties who brought about the extinguishment of the proceedings at that level is waived.

Some of the solutions employed include a return to mechanisms which already applied in our legal order, such as the division of the payment of the court fee. In this specific case, payment of the court fees is made in two instalments:

  • The first instalment of the court fees is payable up to the time the procedural act subject to the fee is effected;
  •  The second instalment of the court fees must be paid within 10 days of service of notice of the final hearing.

The law sets down the cases where the payment of the second instalment of the court fees need not be made on the grounds of:

  • The type of proceedings (for instance, simplified civil actions, cases concerning minors, non-contentious proceedings in family law matters);
  • The early end of the proceedings (for instance, actions where there is no service of notice on the defendant or no defence or trial hearing, as well as actions which end without being challenged or in which, owing to the absence of challenge, a decision is handed down – even if preceded by allegations – and also actions which end before the final hearing date is scheduled;
  • The nature of the proceedings (special administrative proceedings in which there is no place for a public audience or suspended class action suits, proceedings arising out of occupational accident or disease terminated at the litigious stage by a decision against the defendant immediately following the medical exam, or tax proceedings regarding the rate paid by the challenger in the event of withdrawal within the legal time limit, after the partial revocation of the challenged tax act).

It is clear that the primary goal of the amendments in Law 7/2012 is the standardisation of court fees and the same court fee provisions are now applicable to all pending proceedings, regardless of when they were initiated.

Cláudia Roque de Almeida