Summary: The DIFC-LCIA has published new rules which apply to DIFC-LCIA arbitrations commenced on or after 1 October 2016. This follows hot on the heels of the recent developments which encourage better integration between the Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) and the DIFC Courts, allowing more straightforward enforcement of awards.

Changes to DIFC-LCIA rules

The updated rules introduce a number of measures aimed at improving the efficiency of the DIFC-LCIA by:

  • including a process for appointment of an emergency arbitrator (Rule 9B and 9.9), the expedited appointment of a replacement arbitrator (Rule 9C), and the removal of the arbitrator (Rules 10.4-10.7);
  • permitting electronic submission of the Request and the Response and electronic transmission of the final award (Article 1.2, 2.2 and 26.7);
  • requiring early contact between the parties and the Tribunal to discuss the conduct of the proceedings, and the ability to hold any hearing or conference by video or teleconference (Article 14.1 and 19.2);
  • permitting multi-party disputes (Article 1.5 and 2.5) and consolidation (Article 22.1(ix) and (x)); and
  • removing English as the default language of an arbitration (Article 17.1).

The changes aim to reduce the total length of the arbitration by:

  • allowing the parties to elect to treat the Request or the Response as a Statement of Case or Defence (Article 152 and 15.3);
  • encouraging issue of the final award without delay following receipt of all submissions (Article 15.10);
  • making it more difficult to change legal counsel (Article 18.4);
  • expressly giving the Tribunal authority to reward and punish parties for cooperative or unreasonable conduct by allocation of the costs of the arbitration (Article 28.4 and 28.5);
  • prohibiting unilateral contact with the Tribunal or the DIFC-LCIA (Article 13.4); and
  • prescribing responsibilities and duties owed by legal counsel to the court and the potential for sanctions against legal counsel (Article 18.5 and 18.6).

Formalising cooperation with DIAC

These rule changes follow developments aimed at closer integration between DIAC and the DIFC, including a DIAC branch opening in the DIFC in September 2016.

While it was previously possible to enforce DIAC awards in the DIFC Courts, a memorandum entered into between DIAC and the DIFC Dispute Resolution Authority in September 2016 serves to remind parties and practitioners that: they can choose the DIFC as the seat of an arbitration even if using the DIAC rules; and they have a choice between the Dubai Courts or the DIFC Courts when enforcing a DIAC award.

The contract stipulates the procedural rules and the seat of any arbitration, and these decisions are often made without considering how up to date the chosen rules are, and where an award might later be enforced. These issues should be considered at the outset by the contract drafters.

Nevertheless, Dubai’s arbitration community continues to take steps to close the gaps between the various choices and make the path of arbitration easier to navigate.

This article was also co-authored by Trainee Solicitor, Firas Albani.