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Amendments to the Swiss Civil Procedure Code: Enhancing International Litigation and Streamlining Processes

Switzerland is set to strengthen its position as a global hub for dispute resolution with the upcoming amendments to the Civil Procedure Code (CPC), effective 1st January 2025. The amendments reflect a strategic enhancement of Switzerland’s legal infrastructure to cater to the complexities of international commerce and to make judicial processes more efficient and accessible. Here is what you need to know about the upcoming changes:

Creation of International Commercial Courts

The federal government is paving the way for cantons to establish international commercial courts. These specialised courts will have jurisdiction if (i) at least one party is engaged in commercial activity, (ii) the dispute value is at least CHF 100,000, (iii) the parties consent to the jurisdiction of the commercial court, and (iv) at least one party is domiciled or has a usual place of residence or headquarters abroad at the time of consent. This development is expected to significantly bolster Switzerland’s appeal as a forum for international business disputes, with Zurich and Geneva being prime candidates for hosting such courts.

English as a Procedural Language

The cantons will have the possibility to designate English as the procedural language for international commercial litigation. The Swiss Federal Supreme Court will continue to conduct its proceedings in one of the national languages; however, parties will be permitted to submit legal documents in English.

Reduction of Cost Barriers

To improve access to the courts, a new rule mandates that an advance on court costs cannot exceed half of the estimated total costs, with exceptions for international commercial disputes and other specified cases. Moreover, legal aid will be extended to precautionary evidence proceedings.

State Assumes Risk for Costs

Courts will refund advance payments to the prevailing party, shifting the risk of non-payment by the losing party from the individual to the State. This is a significant change from the current system where the winning party had to recover court costs from the losing party, bearing the risk of default.

Strengthening of Conciliation Procedure

The competence of the conciliation authorities will be broadened, allowing them to generally propose a decision in monetary disputes up to a value of CHF 10,000. This enhancement aims to provide parties with a swift and cost-effective alternative to litigation for lower-value disputes. Moreover, for certain disputes before sole cantonal instances (including commercial courts) voluntary conciliation proceedings will be introduced.

Remote Court Proceedings

Courts will have the discretion to conduct oral proceedings, such as hearings, via electronic means, particularly video conferencing, provided all parties agree and no contrary statutory provisions exist.

Privilege for Internal Legal Services and Corporate Lawyers

A new civil procedural privilege is introduced for activities of a company’s internal legal services. To invoke this privilege, the company must be registered in the Swiss Commercial Register or a comparable foreign register, the legal service must be led by a person qualified to practice law, and the activity must be considered professional for an attorney.

These amendments to the Swiss CPC are a clear indication of Switzerland’s commitment to maintaining its leading role in international dispute resolution and to modernising its judicial system to meet the demands of today’s globalised business environment.

*see link below (but amendments available in German only).

https://www.fedlex.admin.ch/eli/cc/2010/262/en 

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