Delivery (Germany)

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In German law, delivery is the process by which a specific recipient is sent a document in a legally prescribed form or given the opportunity to take note of it.

With the law on the promotion of electronic legal communication with the courts of October 10, 2013, electronic legal communication is gradually being converted to electronic delivery.

Legal basis

The Code of Civil Procedure (ZPO) differentiates between “delivery ex officio ” ( §§ 166 to 190 ZPO ) and “delivery at the instigation of the parties ” ( §§ 191 to 195 ZPO ). The procedural rules of the other jurisdictions refer to the service provisions of the civil procedure code for service:

In administrative law , too , sometimes reference is made to the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure. For example in Section 3 (2) of the Administrative Delivery Act (VwZG) for deliveries by postal workers and in Section 5 (2) of the VwZG for deliveries against acknowledgment of receipt .

For cross-border deliveries within the European Union in civil or commercial matters , the EU Regulation No. 1348/2000, also called EuZVO, applies in the context of judicial cooperation in civil matters .

Official delivery

Deliveries are made ex officio if required by law or if the court or an authority so orders. The code of civil procedure always prescribes notification by service if the notification is intended to set legal deadlines in motion (e.g. the period of appeal for a decision by judgment ).

Delivery at the initiative of the parties

In the case of delivery at the instigation of the parties , the regulations governing delivery ex officio apply accordingly, unless sections 192 to 194 of the ZPO provide for deviations. Section 192 of the ZPO provides that the deliveries to be made by the parties must be carried out by the bailiff in accordance with Section 193 and Section 194 of the ZPO. If the parties are represented by lawyers , they can also serve documents directly to one another, Section 195 ZPO. Here, too, in some cases reference is made to the regulations governing service ex officio .

Delivery in extrajudicial business

Section 132 of the German Civil Code opens up the possibility of delivery by bailiffs for out-of-court correspondence between private individuals. The provisions of the ZPO apply accordingly.

Addressee for delivery

Only a person with legal capacity can be the addressee of a delivery . The legislature has determined who is to be served if the recipient is incapable of litigation. Service to a person incapable of litigation is ineffective .

Legal representatives

In the case of persons unable to take legal action, they must be sent to their legal representative . If the recipient of the delivery is not a natural person, delivery to the head is sufficient. If there are several legal representatives or managers, delivery to one of them is sufficient ( Section 170 ZPO).

Authorized representative

The legally appointed representative can be served with the same effect as the person represented. The representative must present a written power of attorney ( Section 171 ZPO).

Process and procedural agent

If a party to be served is represented in a pending proceeding by an authorized litigation or procedural agent, the service must be made to this party ( Section 172 (1) sentence 1 ZPO, Section 7 VwZG).

Authorized recipient

Section 184 of the German Code of Civil Procedure (ZPO) stipulates that the court can, at the same time as a serviceto be effected abroad that complies with the provisions of Section 183 of the German Code of Civil Procedure, request the recipient to name an authorized recipientwho lives in Germany or maintains a business premises there, to whom future deliveries are to be made. The comparable provision for administrative jurisdiction in Section 56 (3) VwGO ( Administrative Court Code ) is more concise.


In criminal proceedings, elected defense counsel, whose power of attorney is on file, as well as the appointed defense counsel, may receive notifications and other communications for the accused ( Section 145a StPO). Unlike in civil proceedings, however, there is no obligation to serve the defense counsel, so that service on the accused is also effective.

Forms of delivery

Ordinary delivery

Delivery document

Where notification with Zustellungsurkunde posting the document is in a sealed envelope with a prepared form a Zustellungsurkunde a postal company , a judicial staff (usually a judicial police ), a bailiff or authority service by then executed is passed or transmitted. The delivery is carried out by handing it over personally to the delivery addressee. The handover may take place at any place where the addressee is found. When the document is handed over to him, it is deemed to have been served. If acceptance is refused by the addressee, the document must be left in the home or business premises. With the unjustified refusal of acceptance and the leaving of the document, the document is deemed to have been served. If the addressee does not have an apartment or there is no business premises, delivery is not possible and the delivery order must be returned to the commissioning office.

If the personal delivery is not possible, a replacement delivery may be made in the apartment, in the business premises or in a communal facility. The sealed envelope is handed over to an adult family member in the apartment, a person employed in the family or an adult permanent roommate.

The handover to a person employed there takes place in business premises. In communal facilities, the handover takes place to the head of the facility or an authorized representative. If it is not possible to hand it over to a replacement person in the apartment or business premises, a replacement delivery can be made by placing it in the mailbox or a similar device. The document is deemed to have been served upon filing . The date of submission is noted beforehand on the sealed envelope of the document to be served. The option of substitute delivery by placing it in the mailbox is not permitted in a communal facility .

If the substitute deliveries described above are not possible, substitute deliveries can also be made by resignation ( Section 181 ZPO).

The document to be served is deposited, if the Post was commissioned with the delivery, at a point designated by the Post at the place of delivery or at the place of the competent local court . The person entrusted with the execution of the delivery leaves a written notification with the addressee about the place of deposit, where the document will be kept for three months for collection. The recipient will also be informed in the notification that by submitting this notification of the filing, the document is deemed to have been served, regardless of whether and when the addressee becomes aware of the content of the document. You will also be informed that the delivery may have legal consequences (e.g. the start of a period). The day of service before it is deposited is noted on the sealed envelope containing the document to be served. The document is deemed to have been served when the written notification of the resignation has been left.

A public document is included on the delivery form about the facts of the delivery. This document has the evidential value of a public document with a different content ( § 415 ZPO).

The certificate of service must contain the name of the person to be served, the name of the person to whom the letter or document was delivered, a remark that the date of service is noted on the envelope containing the document to be served Place, date, surname , first name and signature of the deliverer as well as the details of the commissioned company or the requested authority .

In the case of delivery to an authorized representative, it must also be noted that the power of attorney was present.

In the case of a replacement delivery to the home, business premises or facilities, as well as a replacement delivery by placing it in the mailbox, the reason that justifies this delivery must also be stated.

In the case of substitute delivery by deposit, the document must include how the written notification was left.

If delivery was refused, it must be documented who refused to accept and that the letter was left at the place of delivery or was returned to the sender .

If delivery should take place with a time, not only the date but also the time of delivery must be included in the certificate.

Acknowledgment of receipt

To a lawyer , notary , bailiffs, tax consultants , to an authority, body or public institution , according to § 174 para. 1 ZPO against a so-called acknowledgment of receipt will be sent. In return for acknowledgment of receipt, delivery can also be made to “other persons” who “can be assumed to be more reliable due to their occupation” (Section 174 (1) Alt. 5 ZPO). This is assumed for professions that are legally bound, for example patent attorney , auditor , doctor or pharmacist . Service against acknowledgment of receipt is possible not only for service ex officio (Section 166 (2) ZPO), but also for service from lawyer to lawyer ( Section 195 (2 ) sentence 1 ZPO ). In labor court proceedings, section 50 (2) of the ArbGG opens up the possibility of delivery against acknowledgment of receipt to the group of people who are authorized to represent the person in court according to section 11 of the ArbGG .

The specific legal nature of the acknowledgment of receipt is controversial. On the one hand, it is part of the delivery according to Sections 174, 195 ZPO and constitutive insofar as the person serving the service must align the delivery with the requirements of Sections 174, 195 ZPO. On the other hand, it fulfills a pure verification function. The return of the acknowledgment of receipt is dependent on an act of will (so-called voluntative element) and cannot be forced. A duty to cooperate exists only for lawyers and is only anchored in professional law.

In paper-based communication (Section 174 (1) ZPO) or communication by fax (Section 174 (2) ZPO), the acknowledgment of receipt (Section 174 (4) ZPO) signed by the addressee with the date of receipt is sent to the sender sent back and serves as proof of delivery. For this purpose, the addressee usually uses a form sent with the delivered document.

The form of the acknowledgment of receipt in electronic legal transactions is regulated by Section 174, Paragraph 4, Clause 3 of the ZPO in the version applicable from January 1, 2018 - which differs significantly from the earlier formulation: The delivery according to Paragraph 3 is evidenced by an electronic acknowledgment of receipt. Section 174 (4) sentence 3 ZPO thus introduces something completely new into the right of service: the so-called electronic acknowledgment of receipt (eEB) . The eEB must be submitted in a structured, machine-readable form. For this purpose, a data record provided by the court with the service must be used. This data record is actually not sent with the document to be sent, but is published at .

In contrast to the previous legal situation, receipt of an electronic message can no longer be confirmed by a conventional acknowledgment of receipt by letter or fax. Rather, a data set is generated - not manually, of course, but automatically. Tools are available for this purpose in particular in legal software products. Alternatively, the judiciary also provides software for this. The data record generated can in turn be automatically read in by the court's specialized judicial procedure.

Delivery at the official office

A document can be served on an addressee by handing it over at the office . It is noted on the document and in the file that the document was handed over for the purpose of service . In the notes, the date on which the delivery took place must also be given and signed by the employee who made the delivery.

In the case of delivery to a legally appointed representative, the note in the files also includes the name of the representative to whom the document was delivered and indicates that there was a written power of attorney . The note on the file is proof of delivery.


If the addressee lives abroad and in other delimited cases, delivery can be effected by posting it to the post .

If the addressee lives abroad, the court can, together with a formal service abroad that has to comply with the provisions of Section 183 of the German Code of Civil Procedure, order that the party living abroad appoints an authorized recipient who lives in Germany or one there for future deliveries Maintains business premises. If an authorized recipient is not named, delivery can be effected until the person is subsequently named by mailing the document to the address of the party living abroad. The document is deemed to have been served two weeks after posting, unless the court has set a longer period. ( § 184 ZPO)

Registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt

A document can also be served by registered mail with acknowledgment of receipt ( § 175 ZPO). The return receipt signed by the addressee with the date is proof of delivery.

This service only concerns proof of receipt of the document. It does not prove service of the specific content of the document. The service of the specific content of a document is possible through the service of the document by a bailiff, e.g. B. in the case of service outside of judicial proceedings ( Section 192 ZPO), the bailiff can testify to this, as the bailiff receives the document (declaration) to be served with a copy from the declaring party and certifies the copy. Only the bailiff seals the document to be served in an envelope. In Switzerland, this type of service corresponds to the court document .

Special delivery abroad

The service that has to be carried out abroad is regulated in § 183 ZPO, federally applicable mutual legal assistance regulations and numerous intergovernmental agreements.

A delivery abroad is made by registered mail with acknowledgment of receipt, insofar as documents may be sent directly by post based on international agreements. The return receipt signed by the addressee with the date is proof of delivery. In practice, however, such delivery by registered mail and acknowledgment of receipt usually fails, which is due to the completely inconsistent postal administration regulations in the individual member states of the European Union.

Otherwise the document can be served by the authorities of the foreign state or by the federal diplomatic or consular representation .

In what form and under what conditions such deliveries are carried out, results from the respective further regulations for the individual countries according to the regulations for international legal transactions in civil, criminal and administrative matters.

Service by a requested authority is evidenced by a certificate from this authority.

Public delivery

The public notification (dated Ediktalzitation ) is a special form of the notice (delivery) and can only be done under certain conditions.

In civil proceedings, for example, the prerequisites for public delivery can be given if the recipient, whose residence is unknown in Germany or abroad, cannot be determined and delivery to a representative or authorized recipient is not possible. If the delivery cannot then be effected ex officio due to statutory provisions, it will only be carried out on request . The trial court decides on the application by granting public service ( Section 185 ZPO). In criminal proceedings , public notification can only be made if the admissibility requirements are met ( Section 40 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

The execution of the public service takes place in the form that a notification is posted on the court notice, from which the person for whom the service is being made and the addressee with name and last known address can be seen. Furthermore, the date and file number of the document to be served, the description of the subject of the litigation and the place where the document can be viewed must be given. The notice must also indicate that this notification will result in a public delivery. Depending on what is being delivered, the notification also contains appropriate instructions and information that this form of delivery sets deadlines in motion, the non-observance of which can lead to legal disadvantages ( Section 186 ZPO).

The date and signature of when the notification was posted and removed is noted in the file. Unless a different period has been specified, the document is deemed to have been served if one month has passed since it was attached to the court notice ( Section 188 ZPO); In criminal cases, service is deemed to have been effected when two weeks have passed ( Section 40 StPO).

The attachment to the court notice board can also be replaced by setting the notification described above in an electronic information system that must be publicly accessible in the court.

Ineffectiveness of a delivery and healing of delivery defects

If the proper service of a document cannot be proven, this usually means that the document is deemed not to have been served.

However, the document is deemed to have been served on the day on which it actually reached the addressee. However, it must be possible to prove this actual access, e.g. B. by an acknowledgment of receipt or a witness.

Administrative law

Deliveries by federal authorities, federal corporations and institutions under public law as well as state financial authorities are regulated by law in the Administrative Delivery Act (VwZG). It is possible for the federal states to declare this law applicable. In addition, there are also corresponding state laws at the state level.

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. EC Regulation No. 1348 of May 29, 2000 on the service of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil and commercial matters (PDF file; 87 KB)
  2. Henning Müller: The electronic receipt (eEB): This is how it looks! . Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  3. Electronic right-hand traffic . Justice portal of the federal and state governments. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  4. Henning Müller: The electronic receipt (eEB) - nobody really has to be afraid of that! . Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  5. Henning Müller: Justice provides software for generating an eEB free of charge . Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  6. Henning Müller: The electronic acknowledgment of receipt (eEB) in specialist jurisdiction . Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  7. ^ Humboldt Forum Recht (HFR), 22-2007: Dr. Peter-Andreas Brand - current problems in civil law disputes with foreign relevance - jurisdiction, service and enforcement, p. 5 f., Marginal no. 18 ff.
  8. ^ Regulations on international legal transactions ( Memento from July 7, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  9. Overview of the right of service in EU countries
  10. ^ Hans Schulz, Otto Basler, Gerhard Strauss: German Foreign Dictionary (Institute for German Language 1995), ISBN 3110180219