The Supreme People’s Court promulgated the Opinions on Further Enhancement to Service in Civil Proceedings (the “Opinions”) on July 19, 2017. The Opinions seek to improve and enhance the service of documents by all levels of people’s courts through full-scale promotion of a service address confirmation system to unify the format of service address confirmation forms and their contents for improving the quality and efficiency of service in civil proceedings.
The Opinions confirm the service address confirmation form requirements, which should include the service addresses provided by the parties, the notifications from the people’s court, the confirmation of the service addresses by the parties, the scope of application of the service address confirmation and method of modification. In particular, the service addresses provided by the parties should include the postal codes, the address details and the contact numbers of the recipients. The Opinions require the people’s court to require the parties to confirm matters such as their service addresses and the resulting legal effects, as well as confirming the service addresses at the time the case file is established. If a party refuses to provide the service address, relevant provisions shall be followed. It should be noted, however, that a party seeking to change the service address is required to inform the people’s court in writing; in the absence of such written change, the confirmed address will still be used as the service address. With respect to a party’s refusal to confirm the service address or attempt to avoid and evade service by refusing to respond to litigation, avoiding service staff or moving away from the original residence so that a people’s court fails to or cannot request such party to confirm the service address, the people’s court will deal with such matter individually based on specific circumstances.
In addition, a major highlight of the Opinions is electronic service via messaging or WeChat. A party who has agreed to electronic service shall provide a confirmed electronic service address to receive civil litigation documents such as a fax number, email account or WeChat account. The Opinions have also stipulated different requirements for different electronic service formats. If service is conducted by fax or email, the service personnel should record in the case file the fax transmission and reception number, the email account for sending and receiving, the time of transmission, and title of document served, along with the confirmation of fax transmission and the page indicating successful transmission of an email for the record. If service is conducted via messaging or WeChat, the service personnel should record the mobile phone number for transmission and reception, the time of transmission, the title of the document served as well an image of the contents of the message for in the case file.
The Opinions also specifically stipulate that in the course of the service, a people’s court can leverage the strengths of grassroots organizations and of the public in performing service. Courts across the country are also required to use their best efforts to collaborate with other courts and serve documents entrusted for service by another court with the same diligent and timely basis.