Increases in court fees for ‘money claims’, which include cargo loss/damage claims, are likely to come into force on 9 March 2015, subject to parliamentary hurdles being passed this week.
The Ministry of Justice wants to increase court fees for money claims in an attempt further to reduce the cost to the taxpayer of funding the court system by transferring more of the financial responsibility onto litigants. The increases will impact money claims with a value over £10,000. Specifically, the court fees for claims with a value over £10,000, up to and including £200,000, will be 5% of the value of the claim. For claims with a value over £200,000, the court fee will be fixed at £10,000. Court fees for claims with a value of £10,000 and under will remain unchanged.
The increase represents a considerable hike in the cost of issue fees, from a previous range of £1515 to £1920 for a claim over £200,000 to a new fixed cost of £10,000.
The discounts for claims issued via money claims online, an electronic claims system, will continue to apply.
For now, it is not clear whether court fees for non-money claims, i.e. where a claim is being issued for something other than money, e.g. negative declaratory proceedings, will increase. However, the Ministry of Justice is continuing its review of court fees, which may well result in increases of these and other fees, e.g. fees for various steps taken during the course of the litigation.
Rises in court fees are never welcome and a rise of this magnitude is particularly unwelcome. For those with claims of dubious merit, careful consideration will have to be given as to whether it is worthwhile commencing court proceedings. Equally, however, one can expect that those advising carriers will want to see that meritorious claims made by cargo interests are dealt with promptly and fairly so as to avoid the burden of court fees falling on the carriers/their insurers. No doubt, in such cases, the threat of court proceedings will now be a more powerful negotiating tool.
Those wishing to avoid the effect of the likely increase in issue fees should issue proceedings this week.