The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a number of European countries, including England & Wales, suspend service of documents through their Central Authority and Foreign Process Section, the delegated authorities dealing with transmission and service of documents under the EU Service Regulation and the Hague Service Convention.
As England & Wales do not allow for direct service under Article 15 of the EU Service Regulation, with service via the Foreign Process Section and other diplomatic channels being suspended, service under the regulation is currently not possible.
Whilst this limits the methods for service available to EU and non-EU member states looking to serve documents in England & Wales, there are still other routes of service under the Hague Service Convention to consider. We have summarised these below.
However, if a defendant company does not receive the document due to being away from the principal office, this may well be used as a reason for not responding to the judgment and for seeking an extension to respond to the proceedings once the restrictions are lifted.
However, some caution should be taken if using this approach, as there is no clear English authority as to whether service of foreign proceedings by this method will be held as a valid method of service.
The rules around service in England & Wales are complex and have been complicated further by the pandemic, but there are still ways to ensure documents are served validly. However, care needs to be taken with service at this time to avoid a subsequent application from a party claiming not to have received the documents and requesting extensions to the time to respond to claims, to which the Courts are likely to be sympathetic.
In certain circumstances, it may be sensible to use more than one method of service to combat any later allegations of procedural defects in respect of service.
This article is for information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice, and should not be relied upon as such. Please contact our specialist lawyers to discuss any issues you are facing.