Alternative resolution of non-business disputes by way of arbitration is gaining increasing importance both at the national and international level. The advantages of alternative dispute resolution for clients are obvious, since arbitration is particularly suited to settle cases quickly in a cost-efficient and competent manner and helps to ease the workload of the courts of law.
The 2002 Amendment to the Austrian Code of Civil Procedure provided that the regional bars and the Austrian Bar may establish courts of arbitration. In this context the notes to the aforementioned amendment state that lawyers definitely possess the knowledge and experience to conduct arbitration proceedings, possess the independence required and the necessary high level of technical and legal expertise.
The Austrian Bar has issued an Arbitration Framework (see Legislation), on the basis of which the regional bars may establish the courts of arbitration prescribed by law in the Provinces.
All self-employed lawyers admitted to the bar in Austria or in Europe may act as arbitrators. In addition, there are so-called specialisation lists containing information on the lawyers' specialisation (e.g. business law, real estate law, labour law, family law, inheritance law, etc.).
How does arbitration work?
Arbitration proceedings are instituted by submitting the statement of claim to the court of arbitration. The statement of claim must include documentary evidence of the respondent's express agreement to arbitration in the specific dispute or expressly propose the court of arbitration's jurisdiction.
The secretary of the court of arbitration will then serve the statement of claim on the respondent, including a copy of the Rules of Arbitration, a copy of the general list of arbitrators and a copy of the specialisation list.
The respondent will be asked to state within a time limit of 14 days whether he intends to defend the case and agrees to the arbitrator nominated by the claimant or, if the parties cannot agree on the arbitrator, whether he would agree to an arbitrator appointed by the Board.
Within another 14 days, i.e. only four weeks after service of the statement of claim, a substantiated reply to the statement of claim must be submitted.
The arbitral tribunal may be a single arbitrator or a panel of three arbitrators. The parties may agree on the arbitrator. If no agreement can be reached, the arbitrator will be appointed by the Board from the list in alphabetical order and chronologically as cases arise.
Arbitration proceedings are in principle conducted according to the provisions of the Austrian Code of Civil Procedure (Zivilprozessordnung) (with certain exceptions).
What is the cost of arbitration proceedings?
Upon submission of the statement of claim the arbitration fee becomes payable. The fee covers the work of the arbitrator. He will therefore endeavour to decide the case without unnecessary delay.
Conciliation boards may be established parallel to the courts of arbitration. They may be consulted by the parties in an attempt of conciliation before commencing arbitration.
For more information please refer to those bars where arbitration courts have been established.