The Secretariat of the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC) periodically issues documents for the information of parties and arbitrators and to aid the conduct of the proceedings. These documents include notes dealing with various aspects of practice and procedure. One of the most widely referred practice notes is the Note to Parties and Arbitral Tribunals on the Conduct of the Arbitration under the ICC Rules of Arbitration.

On September 22, 2016, the Court announced certain modifications to the latest version of the Note. The modifications primarily relate to the signature and communication of the Terms of Reference and Awards, as well as the services offered by the Secretariat.

An overview of the modifications is set out below.

Signature of the Terms of Reference and Awards

The previous version of the Note referred to the signature of a number of originals of the Terms of Reference and Awards, without expressly setting out how the signature and communication thereof were to be carried out. In practice, originals of the Terms of Reference and Awards are couriered sequentially to each of the parties and/or the members of the tribunal for signature.

The Note now provides that, subject to any requirements of mandatory law that may be applicable and unless the parties agree otherwise, the Terms of Reference and Awards may be signed by the parties and/or the members of the tribunal in counterparts, and such counterparts may be scanned and communicated to the parties or the Secretariat (as the case may be) by email or another means of telecommunication that provides a record of the sending thereof. The purpose of this modification is to offer a more modern and flexible system that reduces the time to finalise the Terms of Reference.

Services offered by the Secretariat

The Note includes a new section setting out a series of services that the ICC offers to the parties and arbitrators. Such services include the ICC acting as depository of funds relating to VAT, taxes, charges and imposts applicable to arbitrators' fees, experts and escrow accounts; as well as other services aimed at assisting the parties and the arbitrators with the conduct of the arbitration and the organisation of hearings and meetings.

More specifically, the Secretariat services regarding the conduct of the arbitration include acting as depository of documents; organising conference calls; identifying administrative secretaries; providing with model documents (particularly Terms of Reference and timetables); publishing, at the parties' request, information or documents related to an ICC arbitration that is subject to transparency rules and regulations; providing, through the ICC International Centre for ADR, a number of services relevant to the ongoing arbitrations, including the proposal and appointment of experts; and liaising with the ICC Commercial Crime Services. The Secretariat services regarding the organisation of hearings and meetings include the possibility of using the ICC Hearing Centre in Paris and other hearing facilities around the globe; providing information regarding court reporting and simultaneous interpretation; issuing letters to facilitate the obtaining of visas or other authoritsations for individuals participating in a hearing or meeting related to an ICC arbitration; and negotiating preferential hotel rates.

The above-referred modifications are another example of the way the ICC is continuously trying to improve the services it provides to its users. According to Alexis Mourre, President of the Court, "the modifications ensure that ICC Arbitration users get the very best service possible and highlight the range of services provided by the Secretariat that exceed traditional case management services offered by other institutions."

These and other recent modifications precede the amendments that the Court will in due course make to the ICC Rules of Arbitration, which aim to make ICC arbitration an increasingly efficient method of dispute resolution.

A link to the updated Note is available here.