After recent trials, Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) have today announced the new online dispute resolution “portal”.
The new service, which is limited to claims under £10,000 allows proceedings to be issued online and (going beyond the existing “Money Claims Online – MCOL” process) to settle online, something not previously possible. It is described by Justice Minister Lucy Fraser as “innovative, quick and easy” and follows a pilot used by around 1,400 small businesses and individuals.
It is not possible to directly instruct solicitors to use the new process, as it is designed to be used by litigants in person. However, Mark Aspin, Head of Cartmell Shepherd’s Dispute Resolution Department, believes the role of a solicitor may still be vital:
“The new online process is likely to work very effectively for simple claims – such as low value debts where there is a limited dispute over the facts. However, even where a claim appears simple at face value there can be hidden complexities. If one party wishes to use a legal argument, the best way of understanding the merits or such argument is by taking professional legal advice.
“Some companies also prefer to pass the day-to-day handling of a legal dispute to solicitors so the directors and managers can concentrate on running their business. Where people take this commercial decision they should not be prevented from doing do.”
The new service also has other limitations – such as claims against multiple Defendants and claims out of the jurisdiction (which includes claims against individuals and businesses just over the border in Scotland). Such claims need to be brought under the existing procedure either by using MCOL or paper forms as appropriate.
“Even if people want to use the new service, which for suitable cases will save costs,” continues Mark, “there is merit in taking initial advice from a qualified solicitor who can advise on the merits of a claim before time and cost is expending submitting a claim. It is always more cost effective to avoid making a mistake than having to instruct solicitors to try and fix matters.
“At Cartmell Shepherd we are willing to advise before and throughout a claim, or even just for limited stages, without having to formally be recorded as your solicitors. We are always at your side if this is the assistance you require.”
This is the first stage in a plan to develop a complete “Online Court” that can deal with claims up to £25,000 in value.
For further advice, including regarding pursuing your own claim, contact Mark Aspin or his team on 01228 516666.