By way of an update to our last blog, despite the valiant efforts of, amongst others, Lord Pannick, the proposed Court fee changes were approved by the House of Lords last week.
Based on last week's rush to the Courts in the short term we have no doubt that the Courts will see a higher level of activity (most of which of course will be for claims started at the lower rates, so more work for Court staff but without the substantial extra revenue). The Law Society remains unhappy and continues to make noises about some form of legal action, so for the moment claimants might be best advised to wait and not issue proceedings unless they absolutely have to. Sadly though we suspect that the increases are here to stay.
If the fees remain at their newly raised levels then we have no doubt that it won't be too long before well-advised businesses and other litigants will take steps to vote with their feet. Mediation will no doubt continue to prosper, but we expect arbitration to become increasingly popular. Until now it hasn't been seen as a particularly attractive option for lower value (less than £200,000) commercial disputes because the cost of using an arbitrator was always (in our experience) more than the cost of using the Court. For many cases arbitration will be a more commercial option, particularly when its other advantages (such as speed and convenience) are factored in. "See you before the arbitrator" has a bit less of a ring to it though.
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