Legal alerts / 3.04.2020

The Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and state commercial courts introduce special emergency operating procedures to combat COVID-19

Significant changes to the day-to-day operations of commercial organizations and state commercial arbitration courts have resulted from recent emergency measures taken to combat COVID-19.

In this article, we outline and describe operational changes at the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the state commercial arbitration courts.

 

Details of operations at the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

On 26 March 2020, the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as regional chambers, began issuing force majeure certificates under the terms of foreign trade transactions at no cost (Letter of the CCI of Russia dated 26 March 2020 No. PR-0315). This service previously cost about 13,000 RUB per contract.

The spread of COVID-19 is not a force majeure event itself, but measures taken by Russian authorities that cause the domestic company to be unable to fulfill its obligation(s) is.

Considering the extraordinary circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian CCI previously instructed the chambers of commerce and industry of constituent Russian entities to issue, if sufficient grounds are present, force majeure certificates under contracts concluded between Russian companies.

To apply for a force majeure certificate, applicants must indicate:

  • their name;
  • details and subject of the agreement;
  • the applicant’s liabilities and obligations under the agreement, including the procedure and terms;
  • an indication of what the applicant considers to be the force majeure event that prevents or impedes it from meeting its liabilities and obligations; and
  • the beginning and expiration dates of the force majeure event, including confirmation documents.

Decisions to issue a force majeure certificate are adopted by the Russian Chamber of Commerce on a case-by-case basis according to the application information, the terms of the agreement, as well as documents from competent authorities confirming the referenced force majeure events in the application. The following factors are considered:

  • obligations under a foreign trade transaction and terms;
  • the circumstances that could not be reasonably foreseen are extraordinary and inevitable in nature, with supporting documents issued by the competent authorities;
  • a causal relationship between the circumstances and the inability to fully or partially perform obligations under the agreement, considering the term for performing the obligations;
  • the duration of the force majeure event; and
  • other details required to issue a force majeure certificate.

 

Details of operations at the state commercial arbitration courts

On 18 March 2020 most court hearings were suspended from 19 March 2020 to 10 April 2020 (inclusive) (the Quarantine period). The suspension follows the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and the Presidium of the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation, No. 808 (Decree),

Because the Decree does not provide clear guidance for all types of courts changing their work order, there is currently no uniform fulfilment of the Decree in the judicial system.

At the same time, information on the features of courts’ work during the quarantine period has already been posted on the official websites of the courts.

The State Commercial Arbitration Court of the city of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region [1] suspends its operations during the quarantine period for:

  • citizens personally attending, particularly, for accepting and issuing documents, and studying cases;
  • holding court hearings, with the exception of hearings on the following cases: bringing administrative responsibility, and cancelling and adopting interim measures. Information on trial dates will be published on the arbitration court’s website and a https://kad.arbitr.ru/;
  • cases being considered during actionable or administrative proceedings will be considered at a date and time established by the court without the participation of the parties if the court granted the parties’ written motions to consider the case in their absence.

The documents to be issued during the quarantine period will be sent to the parties’ mailing address by registered mail with delivery notifications.

Additionally, parties that have registered to study the cases on dates that fall within the quarantine period will have to re-register for later available dates.

The secretaries and specialists of the General Division of the court have also suspended their work but from  4 to 30 April 2020 (inclusive) (Non-working days) [2]. Therefore, accepting and registering documents has been suspended during these non-working days.

The State Commercial ‘Arbitration Court of the city of Moscow [3] considers the same categories of cases that are considered in the State Commercial Arbitration Court of the city of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region. Additionally, this court hears cases regarding the payment of funds from the debtor’s bankruptcy estate, which are necessary for its creditors (real persons) due to their state of health, for buying necessary medicines..

Hearing cases, as well as issuing copies of judicial acts and other documents is not carried out at the court. However, in urgent cases, the parties may be issued judicial acts and other documents at the judge’s decision in the prescribed manner. Accepting and sending documents is not available during the non-working days.

Specific categories of cases subject to consideration during the quarantine period are not listed on the official website of The State Commercial Arbitration Court of the Murmansk Region [4]. The website only indicated that the court considers only urgent cases, procedures of writ and summary proceedings, cases that can be heard and carried out without calling or notifying the parties, as well as cases in which parties have made motions to consider the case in their absence. In other  instances, all court hearings scheduled during the quarantine period will be postponed.

The official website of The State Commercial Arbitration Court of the Novosibirsk Region [5] indicates that the court will consider cases involving procedures of writ and summary proceedings, as well as cases in which the court receives motions to consider cases in the parties’ absence during the quarantine period. Court hearings scheduled on dates that fall within in the quarantine period will not be held.

Documents received and registered during the non-working days through the information system “My Arbiter” (https://my.arbitr.ru/#index), or via post will be processed from 6  May 2020.

In the State Commercial Arbitration Court of the Nizhny Novgorod Region [6], court hearings in cases considered under the general rules of action or administrative proceedings on the appointed date of the court hearing will be rescheduled to the dates after the end of the quarantine period. Cases under procedure of writ and summary proceedings are considered an carried out without disruption.

Access to the courthouse is allowed exclusively to judges and court staff. In this case, writ issued on the basis of rulings on the adoption of interim measures will be issued in a general manner. In turn, case materials and writs will be issued only by post. Court hearings scheduled during the non-working days without participating representatives will be rescheduled. Parties will be notified about that separately by information found at https://kad.arbitr.ru/.

 

Calculation of procedural periods

Under the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation dated 2 April 2020 No. 239 (Decree), days from 4 April to 30 April 2020 (inclusive) are non-working days. Under clause 3 of Art. 113 of the Code of Commercial Arbitration Procedure of the Russian Federation, in periods calculated by days, non-working days are not included, which should be understood as weekends (Saturday and Sunday) and non-working holidays, the list of which is established by labor legislation. Thus, the non-working days established by the Decree do not fall under the concept of non-working days contained in the Code of Commercial Arbitration Procedure of the Russian Federation. Consequently, non-working days established by the Decree are included in the procedural periods. Moreover, the courts do not accept and register documents during the non-working days.

Given these circumstances, applicants should submit documents using postal services, which continue to operate during the non-working week. A timestamp on the corresponding document(s) will confirm the applicant’s compliance with the procedural periods. Likewise, documents can be submitted through “My Arbiter”, which will record the download date of the procedural documents. However, before using this system to file documents, ensure that the respective arbitration court allows such documents to be filed electronically. For example, the State Commercial Arbitration Court of the city of Moscow on the basis of the Order of the Chairman of the State Commercial Arbitration Court of the city of Moscow dated 26 March 2020, No. 6-k does not accept documents filed through “My Arbiter”. Accordingly, in this case, applicants should use postal services.

If applicants missed the procedural periods for valid reasons, for example, postal services have suspended their activities under a relevant regulatory act, and it is not possible to submit documents through “My Arbiter” or access was limited, they can file a motion to restore the procedural periods on the basis of Art. 117 of the Code of Commercial Arbitration Procedure of the Russian Federation.

 

[1] http://spb.arbitr.ru/

[2] The decree of the President of the Russian Federation dated  2April 2020 No. 239 “On the announcement of non-working days in the Russian Federation”

[3] https://msk.arbitr.ru/node/15909

[4] https://murmansk.arbitr.ru/node/13445

[5] https://novosib.arbitr.ru/

[6] https://nnov.arbitr.ru/node/16956

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