Small claims court fees are to be unchanged but claims of a value greater than £10,000 may see a huge increase.
The government is consulting on whether to impose court fees for claims over £10,000, by charging a fee of 5% of the sum claimed. At the lower end of the scale, it might not make much difference but for higher value claims it could make starting a claim cost several thousands of pounds more. Here are a few projections which show the wide swing:
Value of claim £15,000
Current court fee £550
Potential court fee £750
Value of claim £50,000
Current court fee £815
Potential court fee £2,500
Value of claim £100,000
Current court fee £910
Potential court fee £5,000
Value of claim £150,000
Current court fee £1,115
Potential court fee £7,500
Value of claim £200,000
Current court fee £1,315
Potential court fee £10,000
The only reason the 5% principle is not being proposed for claims of a value less than £10,000, is because it would make the fees cheaper than they already are!
Another Increase In Court Fees – Why?
The last round of court fee increases was only in April 2014. It seems very soon to be proposing more increases, even if the lower value claims will be unaffected.
In the report it states “we assume that user demand will not change in response to planned fee rises”. That seems quite a claim. Surely an increase in fees will have an impact on whether people issue a claim or find the courts as accessible. Perhaps that is a good thing if it means the parties to litigation are more likely to consider other options before going to court, such as mediation or other ADR. However, if it puts off or prices out claimants from pursuing a claim, it is another blow to the principle of access to justice.
The introduction of court fees in the employment tribunal has resulted in a large decrease in the number of claims being started. It is possible the increases would have the same effect.
At Small Claims Court Genie, we think the proposed increases come too soon. Fees were only just increased in April 2014. Those increases were significant. It seems opportunistic for the government to say in the report that the court users see court fees as a small amount of the total costs of litigation, suggesting the proposed new fees are proportionate. They are not proportionate and the value of the claim has little to do with the actual cost of the court to issue a claim and to get it to trial. Small claims, often with unrepresented litigants can often be every bit as complicated as higher value claims.
How much more do politicians think they can squeeze out of the court system and the legal system before it breaks?
You can read more at the government website here.