MOJ consultation: court fee cap set to double to at least £20,000

The Ministry of Justice yesterday (22 July 2015) proposed further increases for issuing money claims with the maximum fee likely to be at least £20,000. This follows on from increases brought into force in March 2015 which saw the maximum fee for issuing a claim rise to £10,000, amid much controversy. The new increases will only affect claims for £200,000 or more. The MoJ also confirmed that it will increase court fees for issuing general applications and possession claims.

Background

In December 2013 the MoJ issued a consultation on reforming court fees, which included (in Part 2 of the consultation) the possibility of charging 'enhanced fees' ie setting fees at a level above the cost of the activities to which they relate.

In January 2015, when the Government published its response to Part 2 of the consultation, it also issued further proposals for raising fee income from possession claims and general applications in civil proceedings.

In March 2015, the Government's 'enhanced fee' proposals came into effect when it introduced a percentage based fee system for issuing money claims whereby, for a money claim worth more than £10,000, the issue fee would be 5% of the value of the claim, subject to a cap of £10,000.

See our previous posts on court fees for further details.

Further court fee increases proposed

The Government has issued a further consultation proposing:

  • an increase in the cap for issuing money claims from £10,000 to 'at least £20,000' (which will also apply to counterclaims). Personal injury and clinical negligence claims will be excluded from this higher cap and fee remission schemes for those of limited means will continue to apply and will be more generous
  • introducing or increasing fees in certain tribunals, including the property, tax and general regulatory tribunals, and
  • a general uplift of 10% to all other fees in civil proceedings (except those that have already been increased above cost). This will include judicial review proceedings, proceedings for the assessment of costs, enforcement proceedings, Court of Appeal proceedings and issue fees where the claim is not for money or possession of land or goods (eg proceedings seeking a declaration or injunction)

The Government stated in the consultation that the increased fee income for issuing money claims (up to a cap of £20,000) will only impact 0.4% of claims and justified this increase on the basis that it will impact higher value claims involving multi-national organisations or wealthy individuals of whom the Government believes it is right to ask for a greater contribution.

The combination of fee increases will put the court service above the full cost recovery across the civil courts but the Government plans to use the surplus fee income generated to finance the costs of the court service as a whole.

The consultation will close on 15 September 2015.

Inquiry into courts and tribunals fees charges

This latest proposal comes at the same time as the House of Commons Justice Committee announced that it plans to hold an inquiry into the effects of the introduction and level of the new enhanced court fees. The inquiry seeks views on how the increased fees have affected access to justice and the competativeness of the legal services market in England and Wales, particularly in an international context. The deadline for submissions to the inquiry is 30 September 2015.

Increased fees for making court applications

The Government has also confirmed that fees for general applications will increase to £100 for applications without notice or by consent (from the current fee of £50) and £255 for contested applications on notice (from the current fee of £155). The fees for issuing a possession claim in the County Court will also increase by £75, from £280 to £355 (from £250 to £325 for claims initiated online).

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