Dec 22, 2015

UK Government Puts the Brake on Plans to Further Court Fee Increase

We previously reported in March 2015 about an increase in court fees. The fees increased on 9 March 2015 and led to a hike of more than 660% in some cases (unspecified claims). It was also reported in July 2015, that the Ministry of Justice ("MoJ") had opened a consultation proposing another round of significant court fee increases for civil claims.

On 17 December 2015, the Government announced that it had decided not to proceed with the latest round of planned increases after all – at least until such time as it has properly assessed the impact of previous fee increases on access to justice.

It is encouraging that the Government is willing to revisit its proposals in light of consultation responses received by court users and law firms. The cost of issuing a claim in the High Court is already very costly and raising the fees yet higher could have restricted access to justice for thousands of small and medium enterprises making the option of litigation open only to the most wealthy individuals and companies.

The Government has published a response which can be seen here to its recent consultation on further increases. It is good news in the sense that it has decided not to go ahead with plans to increase the cap on fees to issue a money claim. Claimants issuing a money claim must pay an issue fee that broadly equates to 5% of the value of their claim, subject to a cap.

Earlier this year, as part of a drive to make the courts more self-sustaining, the cap was increased by more than 500%, to £10,000. In its latest consultation, the Government had proposed to increase the cap to "at least" £20,000, and invited views on whether there should be a higher cap or no cap at all.

The response goes onto say that in view of the financial position and the need to ensure the efficient funding of the courts, the government does not rule out revisiting the proposal in the future when it has had more time to evaluate and assess the impact of the previous increases of court fees.

One of the observations made by many in the response is that the fees are disproportionately front-loaded, where only a very small percentage of issued claims ever proceed to trial, and yet there is no realistic prospect of recovering an issue fee where a claim settles at an earlier stage.

in: Civil Procedure, Legal News, News

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