Large increases to Court fees – concern for access to justice?

On 9 March 2015 the court fees payable to commence a claim worth £10,000 or more significantly increased, creating a number of concerns about the impact this may have on access to justice.

- Previously, claims with a value between £15,000 and £50,000 attracted a court fee of £610; claims between £50,000 and £100,000 a fee of £910; and claims between £100,000 and £200,000 a fee of £1,315.

- From 9 March 2015 claims worth between £10,000 and £200,000 now attract a court fee of 5% of the value of the claim. This therefore means that a claim worth £200,000 now has a court fee of £10,000 as opposed to the previously more modest sum of £1,315 (there is currently a cap on the court fee of £10,000).  This equates to a 576% increase in the court fee.

-The government has claimed that these increases should generate an extra £120m per year and help the court system become more independent at a time when budgets are continually being cut.

- The court fee increases are likely to have a serious impact on litigation. Those pursuing claims seeking recovery of amounts over £10,000 will have to decide whether they are prepared to pay thousands of pounds just to get the claim started. This is a serious financial risk for most individuals and companies. The significant upfront cost is likely to stop not only those who are less confident that they have a winning case, but also those who have a winning case but quite simply cannot afford the court fee on top of legal costs.

- Despite the stiff opposition that met these fee increases, the government has recently closed consultation on further increases. Whilst the increases earlier this year only affected the court fee for commencing money claims, current proposals will see an increase across most other civil court fees.

- The current proposals, if implemented, will also increase the current fee cap to commence a money claim from £10,000 to £20,000.

- Law firms will have to wait with baited breath to see whether fees are increased even further and the effect this may have on access to justice.

If you need further advice in relation to a dispute or potential dispute, please call and ask to speak to a member of our dispute resolution team. 

This briefing just provides an overview of the law in this area, it is not legal advice and should not be treated or relied upon as such. You should talk to us for a complete understanding of how it may affect your particular circumstances.