Court fees to rise: fears for SMEs

Civil court fees for money claims over £10,000 are to rise dramatically, with the change coming into effect from Monday 9 March 2015.

The new fee will be calculated at 5% of the value of the claim, up to a maximum fee of £10,000. For example, a claim amounting to £40,000 meant a fee of £610 in fees before the reforms; it will now amount to £2,000 (a 228% increase). The fee for claims over £200,000 will be capped at £10,000, and the fee for claims of up to £10,000 will remain unchanged.

Though a successful trial would mean you can usually reclaim the fee from the losing party, the decision by parliament has attracted criticism by the industry, including senior judges and The Law Society.

Concerns are that it will drive work away from UK lawyers as well as have a disproportionately adverse impact on SMEs and litigants in person, who will have to pay the money up front. There are concerns that costs will restrict access to justice, and in some instances, the fee could be disproportionate to any award eventually made.

The civil justice council said that the reform is a matter of grave concern, in that it 'carries with it potentially far-reaching and damaging consequences for access to justice'.

Shailesh Vara, the justice minister, said: “Increasing court fees will never be welcome… however, it is right that those who use the services should make a greater contribution towards their running costs, where they can afford to do so.”