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01 July 2020
Two freight forwarding companies were in dispute over the payment of freight forwarding charges in connection with a transport from Germany to the United Kingdom. After out-of-court negotiations failed, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the Duisburg Local Court. The plaintiff claimed that the local court's jurisdiction derived from its general terms and conditions, in which Duisburg was stated as the place of jurisdiction.
The Duisburg Local Court judge expressed considerable doubts that he was competent to rule over this matter (21 January 2020, 50 C 3719/19). After hearing the parties, the matter was referred to the court which had jurisdiction over the place of departure (Article 31(1)(b) of the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road).
Irrespective of the question of implementing the plaintiff's general terms and conditions into the contract for carriage, the wording "place of jurisdiction: Duisburg" is insufficient to establish a jurisdiction of the court referred to therein.
There are three local courts in Duisburg:
Even if the quoted clause from the plaintiff's general terms and conditions had become part of the contract, this would not necessarily have resulted in the jurisdiction of one concrete court. What is meant by Duisburg as a place of jurisdiction is unclear and cannot be determined by way of interpretation. Therefore, the court had no jurisdiction at all.
There are a number of cities in Germany which have more than one local court. The federal capital of Berlin is the leader in this regard with 11 local courts while Munich has two regional courts.
It is therefore advisable when drafting general terms and conditions, as well as contracts, that the planned local court of jurisdiction is described as precisely as possible.
For further information on this topic please contact Carsten Vyvers at Arnecke Sibeth Dabelstein by telephone (+49 69 97 98 85 0) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Arnecke Sibeth Dabelstein website can be accessed at www.asd-law.com.
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