On 9 March 2015, the court fees payable by anyone wanting to bring a civil claim for over £10,000 increased. The court fee will now be 5% of the total value of the claim up to a cap of £10,000 for claims of £200,000 or more. This is very different to the old system, where flat fees were charged according to a banding set by the court. For example, the old fee for bringing a claim worth between £15,000 and £50,000 was £610; now the fee is between £750 and £2,500, depending on the exact amount of the claim.
Concerns have been raised in the media about these very significant price increases, brought in with very little warning by the government. It has been said that the people most affected will be those pursuing debts owed to small businesses and those with personal injury and clinical negligence claims.
The Law Society confirmed by press release on 22 February 2015 that it intends to challenge the lawfulness of the decision to increase the court fees. The Law Society sent a letter to the government setting out the grounds for this challenge and the government will have time to respond to it before the Law Society considers whether to apply to have the government’s decision reviewed by a Judge. Further news is expected towards the end of March.
In the meantime, the majority of debts owing to small businesses will fall below the £10,000 threshold meaning that they will remain largely unaffected. The increase in court fees does, however, provide small businesses with an opportunity to review their credit control procedures and perhaps consider seeking payment before delivering goods or rendering services.
Personal injury and clinical negligence claimants are usually able to retain the services of a solicitor who will carry the cost of the court fee during the case and recover the expense from the Defendant in the event that the claim is eventually successful. This is a real worry for the solicitors who have to carry the cost, but their clients will not be deprived of access to justice. Certainly, Barlow Robbins’ clients need have nothing to fear from the fee increase.