New Rules for the refund of hearing fees for all cases will come into force on 6 March 2017.
If the court gives notice of the trial date or the start of the trial period before 6 March 2017 the new rules will not apply and a refund will be due in line with the current process.
Currently, the hearing fee must be paid at the same time as the pre-trial checklist (LQ) is filed. If LQ not required, or the case is on the small claims track, the fees must be paid within 14 days of the despatch of the notice of the trial date or trial week; or the date when you are told the trial date or trial week, if no written notice is given.
Small Claim Track: Hearing fees range from £25 - £335
Claimants currently get a 100% refund of the hearing fee if they notify the court of settlement in writing, at least seven clear calendar days before the trial date or start of the trial week.
Fast track (£545), Multi track (£1,090)
The following amounts are currently refunded where the court is notified in writing that case is settled/discontinued:
- More than 28 days before the hearing, 100%
- 28 - 15 days before the hearing 75%
- 14 - 7 days before the hearing, 50%
- Fewer than 7 days before the hearing 0%.
No Refund: This will apply to all cases where the court has given notice of the trial date or start of the trial period after 6th March 2017, the fee has been paid and the case then settles.
Strike out sanction: A Hearing fee must be paid least 28 days before the date of the trial. Failure to pay the hearing fee will result in the claim/counterclaim being struck out. There will be no “unless” order made first.
Lessons to be learned
- Claimants risk getting struck out (without warning) for failure to pay the hearing fee.
- Fresh proceedings or an application to reinstate the claim will need to be issued with the appropriate issue fee. Limitation may be an issue.
- Claimants with weak cases may be less tempted to take cases close to trial before discontinuing as they will be unable to get any refund once it is due.
- Defendants should diarise the 28 day payment due date and check with the Court. If the fee has not been paid, invite strike out.
- If a Defendant's offer expires after the deadline for payment of the hearing fee then this cost will fall to be paid by the Defendant.
- Make your offers early and make sure they are high enough to give adequate protection.