The Expedited Arbitration Rules (the “Expedited Rules”), adopted by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) on 21 July 2021, entered into force from 19 September 2021 (the “Effective date”). Presented as an appendix to the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules (UARs), the UARs and the Expedited Rules need to be read in conjunction for the proper conduct of the proceedings. Below are some notable points of the Expedited Rules.
1. Application of the UNCITRAL Expedited Arbitration Rules Express consent of the parties is required for the application of the Expedited Rules. Parties that had concluded an arbitration agreement or had initiated arbitration under the UARs before the effective date of the Expedited Rules can subsequently refer their dispute to arbitration under the Expedited Rules if they agree. However, parties to an arbitration agreement concluded before the entry into force of the Expedited Rules will not be presumed to have referred their dispute to the Expedited Rules even though the Expedited Rules are presented as an appendix to the UARs Unlike some other expedited arbitration rules, the Expedited Rules are invoked regardless of the case’s threshold. For example, under the American Arbitration Association’s expedited arbitration rules, if the claim value is less than $75,000, the expedited rules will automatically apply unless the parties agree otherwise.
2. Withdraw from the Expedited Rules Article 2 of the Expedited Rules addresses such circumstances allowing parties to agree to withdraw from expedited arbitration when the circumstances evolved in a manner that would make expedited arbitration no longer suitable for resolving the dispute. When the request to withdraw from the Expedited Rules is unilateral, the arbitral tribunal shall consider whether the Expedited Rules are no longer appropriate for the resolution of the dispute before making the determination.
3. Make use of technological means The arbitral tribunal may utilize any technological means to hold any steps of the expedited arbitration without the physical presence of the parties or witnesses, including remote proceedings. The use of technological means in arbitration is widely applied in many arbitration rules such as the ICC Arbitration Rules 2021 (Article 26.1). Under Article 9 of the Expedited Rules, Consultation as a key to an efficient and fair organization of expedited arbitration may be conducted through a meeting in person, in writing, by telephone or videoconference, or other means of communication. The Expedited Rules allow consultation and hearing without the physical presence of the parties. However, Article 11 of the Expedited Rules emphasizes the discretionary power of the arbitral tribunal to not hold hearings in expedited arbitration in the absence of a request by any party.
4. Discretion of the arbitral tribunal The discretion of the arbitral tribunal is addressed in the Expedited Rules regard to time frames (Article 10), whether to hold the hearing (Article 11), whether to request additional evidence (Article 15) and so on. Especially, regarding the award of the expedited arbitration, Article 16 provides a 6-month time frame for making the award and a mechanism for extending that time frame in exceptional circumstances. Thus, the arbitral tribunal still can extend the periods and by determining whether the circumstances are exceptional or not.