The Kingdom of the Netherlands was an original signatory to the Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, also called the Hague Service Convention, on November 15, 1965 though its provisions did not enter into force until January 2, 1976.

US attorneys seeking service in the Netherlands would be wise to familiarize themselves with the mandatory character of the Convention as set forth in Volkswagenwerk A.G. v. Schlunk, 486 U.S. 694 (1988).

Canadian attorneys should consult provincial precedent — Canadian courts take a more nuanced view of the Convention, but effectively reach the same conclusion: its limitations must be observed. Regardless of forum court requirements, the service rules of the receiving country must be observed, or enforcement of a judgment may become impossible.

About Serving Process in the Netherlands

Service of process in the Netherlands is quite straightforward. The Dutch Central Authority is highly functional, but significantly slower than its counterparts in neighboring countries. This is despite the nation’s status as host to the Hague Conference on Private International Law, which coordinates the operation of the Service Convention.

Generally speaking, direct service via a gerechtsdeurwaarder (court bailiff) is preferable. It is not only much quicker than service via the Central Authority, but more cost effective and equally recognizable in US causes of action.

The pitfalls in Dutch procedure come about in translation.

Translation Requirements

The Dutch are thoroughly trained in foreign languages during their primary and secondary schooling, and almost universally speak fluent English. As such, translation is not required under the Netherlands’ declarations to the Hague Service Convention.

This does not provide practical relief from the necessity of translation, however, as defendants have a right under European Union law to refuse documents not served in Dutch. Moreover, because the language of Netherlands courts is exclusively Dutch, any post-judgment enforcement action in those courts is likely to fail where service is effected in English alone.

Regardless, in all cases, the language of served documents must reasonably be understood by the defendant in order to fulfill US Due Process requirements. In particular, for documents served upon a recipient who speaks neither English nor Dutch, translation into a third language may be necessary. US practitioners should explore this issue with our legal staff.

Service Through Alternative Channels

Article 10(a):

The Netherlands does not object to service by postal channel.

Caveat: Mail service pursuant to the Hague Service Convention is fraught with issues, including the need to have it executed in accordance with the forum court’s local rules, and where service abroad is proper when the destination country has not affirmatively stated that it is not opposed to mail service

Article 10(b):

The Netherlands likewise does not object to service by judicial officer. The judicial officer is the resident bailiff (gerechtsdeurwaarders) of the court of first instance in whose jurisdiction the defendant is domiciled.

Caveat: “Judicial officer,” “official,” or “competent person” are terms defined under the laws of the destination state, not under the laws of the requesting state. In the Netherlands, private process service is unknown, and only gerechtsdeurwaarders are empowered to serve process pursuant to Article 10. Dutch attorneys (other than gerechtsdeurwaarders), detectives or private individuals are not so empowered, so service effected by such persons is improper. Article 10(c) service is thus inoperative, despite the Netherlands’ lack of objection thereto.

Note that direct service through a gerechtsdeurwaarder should not taint later enforcement of a US judgment in the Netherlands, although such enforcement is never guaranteed.

Dutch Overseas Territories

In the absence of a declaration to the contrary, the Netherlands has asserted that the Hague Service Convention applies to the entire territory of its Kingdom. Still, while the Convention has been extended to the Caribbean island of Aruba, it does not extend to the remainder of the Netherlands Antilles, which have a special legal character.

LLS Can Help

LLS can assist you with service and can help you understand and meet the translation requirements for service of process in the Netherlands. Please call 1-800-755-5775 for more information.