In November 2015, the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) announced the release of its new ACICA Arbitration Rules 2016 and ACICA Expedited Arbitration Rules 2016, each of which came into effect on 1 January 2016. As this is the first time the rules have been updated since 2011, ACICA has taken the opportunity to implement substantial new measures in order to keep in step with other arbitral institutions around the globe. The key changes are discussed below.

The key developments are:

  • provision for an expedited arbitration procedure pursuant to the ACICA Expedited Arbitration Rules where (i) the amount in dispute is less than $5,000,000, (ii) the parties agree, or (iii) it is a case of exceptional urgency (clause 7);
  • provision for the consolidation of multiple arbitrations into one, provided that (i) the parties agree to the consolidation, (ii) the arbitrations share a single arbitration agreement, or (iii) the arbitrations share a common question of law or fact in respect of the same parties and transactions (clause 14);
  • a new clause permitting the joinder of third parties to an arbitration, provided that they are prima facie bound by the arbitration agreement (clause 15); and
  • a new procedure for the appointment of experts who can report directly to the tribunal on specific issues (clause 32).

ACICA officials have stated that the new Rules ‘draw on the wide international arbitration experience of its members based in Europe, the Middle East and Asia’ in order to ‘provide enhanced processes for the efficient resolution of disputes’. That these jurisdictions have been influential in the drafting of the new rules is evident from the similarities between them. For instance, the prerequisites to consolidation in the new ACICA rules appear to have been closely modelled on article 10 of the ICC Arbitration Rules 2012.

The perceived effectiveness of comparable regimes is of particular importance to arbitral institutions, as parties remain at liberty to select whichever arbitration rules they choose, and may be less inclined to adopt rules that lack features that have gained broad acceptance. The new release is therefore a step towards ensuring that ACICA rules continue to reflect contemporary best practice.