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If you are an entrepreneur in the Netherlands and you have a dispute with another entrepreneur, a consumer, a current or former employee or a current or former tenant, you have the option of taking the dispute to court. The court then issues a binding ruling which you and the other party must comply with. Depending on the kind of case or the value of the case, proceedings will be instigated in the first instance before either the sub-district court or the civil court.
The sub-district court deals with cases with a value of up to €25,000, labour matters, rental and leasing arrangements and consumer purchase and credit matters. You can represent yourself before the sub-district court – you do not have to hire a lawyer. In a number of cases (in Dutch), you can also bring your case before the (Dutch-language) eKantonrechter (electronic Subdistrict Court).
The civil court
The civil court deals with cases worth more than €25,000. The civil court also rules on bankruptcy cases, for example. You are obliged to hire a lawyer for cases before the civil courts.
Court of Appeal
If you do not agree with the decision of the sub-district court or the civil court you can file an appeal and the Court of Appeal will then review your case. This is only possible, however, in cases that are worth more than €1,750. You are obliged to hire a lawyer for cases before the Court of Appeal.
You pay court fees as a contribution towards the costs of the court proceedings at the court where your case is heard. The amount depends on the type and/or value of your case.
Subsidised legal assistance
If you have a low income, you might be eligible for subsidised legal assistance. The Dutch authorities will pay a portion of your lawyer expenses. You do not qualify for subsidised legal assistance if the dispute is related to your company.
Court Cases in English
Since 2019, entrepreneurs can have court cases heard in English at the National Commercial Court (NCC).
Collective damages cases
From 1 January 2020 it has become easier for representative interest groups to claim mass damages in court on behalf of a collective. The Act on Collective Settlement of Mass Damages (Wet Collectieve Afwikkeling Massaschade, WCAM) has been expanded (in Dutch) so that if parties cannot reach a settlement on compensation, a judge can intervene to set the amount for collective damages.