What are the costs related to participation in group proceedings?

Group proceedings, as every other civil action, entail court fees. However, in group proceedings special (lower) court fees apply.

The court fees in group proceedings were subject to change as a result of Amendment no. 2 of 2019, which introduced changes also in the Act of 28 July 2005 on Court Fees in Civil Cases. After 21 August 2019 in cases on property rights pursued in group proceedings, half of the fee established on the basis of the provisions regulating the amount of the fees in non-group proceedings should be paid, however not less than PLN 100.00 and not more than PLN 200,000.00. In turn, in cases regarding the protection of non-property rights pursued in group proceedings, a fixed rate of PLN 600.00 is in force.

It seems that until the final composition of the group is established (see: What is the course of group proceedings?), the value of the object of the dispute in group proceedings cannot be determined since composition of the group and at the same time an amount or value of the claims is variable. Until the final composition of the group is established, in case on property rights in group proceedings, the court applies the so-called temporary fee (between PLN 300.00 – PLN 20,000.00). This pertains mainly to the fee for filing of a statement of claims in group proceedings. In such cases, in the judgement that ends the proceedings in the case before the court of a given instance, the court determines a final fee, in principle, established in accordance with the regulations indicated above (half of the amount due in a case not being group proceedings).

Apart from court fees (for the statement of claims, complaint and appeal), other court expenses appear during the proceedings, e.g. the costs of the announcement on commencement of the group proceedings or the costs of expert’s opinion on evidence (if such a motion as to evidence is submitted). During the proceedings, the court requires the party to pay an advance on costs to cover such expenses, in the amount determined by the court, whereas the final amount of the costs of the proceedings is determined in the final judgement. The amount of the costs that arise during the proceedings depends on the nature and subject matter of a claim.

Furthermore, the Act provides that at the defendant’s request, which should be filed with the first procedural act of the defendant, the court may obligate the claimant (that is the group representative) by way of a decision to pay a security deposit to secure the costs of the proceedings, however only when the defendant makes it plausible that the action is groundless and that the lack of the deposit, in the event the action is dismissed, will render impossible or seriously hinder the defendant to carry out the judgment in the subject of the costs of the proceedings. The court shall specify the amount of the deposit, it cannot, however,  exceed 20% of the value of the amount of the dispute. If the deposit is not paid by the date set by the court, the court suspends the proceedings, and where the deposit is not paid in the additional 3 month period, the court rejects the action (or means of appeal). The decision on the suspension may be challenged.

In the event that the plaintiff (representative of the group) is the Financial Ombudsman, the provisions on the deposit do not apply.

The group representative is formally obligated to pay the court costs. The Act does not specify in what proportions the group members participate in these costs. This should result from internal agreements between the group members and the representative. Usually, the share in particular court costs (fees and expenses) payable by a given group member shall depend on the value of a claim pursued by them (proportionally to the sum of all claims).

However, the Act clearly indicates that a member of the group does not bear the costs of the process in which the claimant (representative) is the Financial Ombudsman.

Moreover, as in each civil action, the rule that losing party pays applies. If the statement of claims is rejected or dismissed, the claimant (the group representative) may be obligated to reimburse the defendant for the costs incurred by them (including the costs of professional legal representation).

Remuneration of the professional counsel, who acts on behalf of the group representative in group proceedings, is specified in the legal representation agreement concluded by the group representative. The Act permits the attorney to reserve the right to a success fee, which means a fee depending on the amount of the sum awarded to the group representative (and the group members) as a result of winning the case. However, this type of fee may not exceed the equivalent of 20% of the amounts awarded to the claimant.