A recent Government proposal has been published suggesting that Court fees will rise as early as 1 March 2015. Currently the maximum issue fee is £1,920 but it is anticipated the new fee structure will mean the Court fee will be 5% of the value of the claim, with a cap of £10,000. A 10% discount will be available for all those that process their claim online.
This is a massive jump in costs that will have to be met by Claimants, and is almost five times the cost of the fee as it currently stands. Ultimately the Claimants who will suffer the most are bound to be individuals who may be denied access if they simply cannot afford the cost of the new fees. Similarly, I imagine solicitors are less and less likely to stump up the cost of those fees if it’s the difference between £1,920 and £10,000. The Government seems to think that the issue of fees is a secondary choice when a Claimant makes the decision to proceed according to their research. I strongly suspect this will change once the new fee structure comes in and will almost act as a bar to some individuals taking a matter forward. Often issuing a claim can:
- Protect the right of the claimant if there is a time pressure, and
- Be tactically used to encourage a settlement.
However, this increase will certainly make someone think twice if they have to pay out more, without the guarantee they will get those fees back. Is this ever right? The Government counters this concern by suggesting “no win, no fee” arrangements will always be available on the market, but in my view, only certain solicitors will end up offering this in the ever changing market. It is wholly wrong that individuals should be squeezed down to a select choice of solicitors based on Court fees.
We will have to wait and see if the proposals are to be brought in and implemented in the way the paper suggests, but the reality is this area is constantly subject to change over the past few years and I believe it will continue to keep changing. My prediction is that if the changes come in, we will see a drop in the number of cases being issued in the future.