Enforcing Contracts Methodology
Indicators on enforcing contracts measure the efficiency of the judicial system in resolving a commercial dispute. The data are built by following the step-by-step evolution of a commercial sale dispute before local courts. The data are collected through study of the codes of civil procedure and other court regulations as well as surveys completed by local litigation lawyers and by judges (figure 1). The ranking on the ease of enforcing contracts is the simple average of the percentile rankings on its component indicators (figure A.1).
The name of the relevant court in each economy—the court in the largest business city with jurisdiction over commercial cases worth 200% of income per capita—is published at http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploretopics/enforcing-contracts/.
Assumptions about the case
- The value of the claim equals 200% of the economy’s income per capita.
- The dispute concerns a lawful transaction between 2 businesses (Seller and Buyer), located in the economy’s largest business city. Seller sells goods worth 200% of the economy’s income per capita to Buyer. After Seller delivers the goods to Buyer, Buyer refuses to pay for the goods on the grounds that the delivered goods were not of adequate quality.
- Seller (the plaintiff) sues Buyer (the defendant) to recover the amount under the sales agreement (that is, 200% of the economy’s income per capita). Buyer opposes Seller’s claim, saying that the quality of the goods is not adequate. The claim is disputed on the merits. The court cannot decide the case on the basis of documentary evidence or legal title alone.
- A court in the economy’s largest business city with jurisdiction over commercial cases worth 200% of income per capita decides the dispute.
- Seller attaches Buyer’s movable assets (for example, office equipment and vehicles) before obtaining a judgment because Seller fears that Buyer may become insolvent.
- An expert opinion is given on the quality of the delivered goods. If it is standard practice in the economy for each party to call its own expert witness, the parties each call one expert witness. If it is standard practice for the judge to appoint an independent expert, the judge does so. In this case the judge does not allow opposing expert testimony.
- The judgment is 100% in favor of Seller: the judge decides that the goods are of adequate quality and that Buyer must pay the agreed price.
- Buyer does not appeal the judgment. Seller decides to start enforcing the judgment as soon as the time allocated by law for appeal expires.
- Seller takes all required steps for prompt enforcement of the judgment. The money is successfully collected through a public sale of Buyer’s movable assets (for example, office equipment and vehicles).
The list of procedural steps compiled for each economy traces the chronology of a commercial dispute before the relevant court. A procedure is defined as any interaction, required by law or commonly used in practice, between the parties or between them and the judge or court officer. Other procedural steps, internal to the court or between the parties and their counsel, may be counted as well. Procedural steps include steps to file and serve the case, steps to assign the case to a judge, steps for trial and judgment and steps necessary to enforce the judgment (table A.1).
The survey allows respondents to record procedures that exist in civil law but not common law jurisdictions and vice versa. For example, in civil law jurisdictions the judge can appoint an independent expert, while in common law jurisdictions each party submits a list of expert witnesses to the court. To indicate overall efficiency, 1 procedure is subtracted from the total number for economies that have specialized commercial courts, and 1 procedure for economies that allow electronic filing of the initial complaint in court cases. Some procedural steps that are part of others are not counted in the total number of procedures.
Time is recorded in calendar days, counted from the moment the plaintiff decides to file the lawsuit in court until payment. This includes both the days when actions take place and the waiting periods between. The average duration of different stages of dispute resolution is recorded: the completion of service of process (time to file and serve the case), the issuance of judgment (time for the trial and obtaining the judgment) and the moment of payment (time for enforcement of the judgment).
Cost is recorded as a percentage of the claim, assumed to be equivalent to 200% of income per capita. No bribes are recorded. Three types of costs are recorded: court costs, enforcement costs and average attorney fees.
Court costs include all court costs that Seller (plaintiff) must advance to the court, regardless of the final cost to Seller. Enforcement costs are all costs that Seller (plaintiff) must advance to enforce the judgment through a public sale of Buyer’s movable assets, regardless of the final cost to Seller. Average attorney fees are the fees that Seller (plaintiff) must advance to a local attorney to represent Seller in the standardized case.
This methodology was developed in Djankov and others (2003) and is adopted here with minor changes.