The mandatory use of a new electronic bill of costs is being delayed until next year, it has emerged.
The Gazette understands the Civil Procedure Rule Committee has put back its October 2017 plan and is instead aiming to make the new bill compulsory from April 2018.
The deferment was confirmed at this month’s meeting of the committee and is due to more time being needed to ensure the IT in county courts is in place to handle bills filed electronically.
Last month it was reported that the committee was planning to meet HM Courts and Tribunals Service to discuss implementation, with changes to be included in the next scheduled update of the CPR next month.
Lawyers who have taken part in the voluntary pilot since 2015 have complained the new bill requires lawyers to spend longer recording their time and preparing the document.
The Association of Costs Lawyers has said the new bill can offer ‘significant’ benefits to parties, judges and lawyers alike, although it acknowledged there has been little data collected about the success of the pilot.
The pilot scheme for the new bill of costs is currently due to expire on 30 September. The scheme provides for the use of a new format of costs bill in the detailed assessment procedure.
The idea had been promoted by Lord Justice Jackson in his final report on civil justice, but lawyers have warned against the bill becoming mandatory without a full consultation and a full review of costs budgeting, introduced in 2013.
In a report to the CPR committee in May, it was noted that the pilot scheme had shown that using a spreadsheet for costs recording ‘makes the figures transparent to the paying party and the costs judge’.
Even last month, the sub-committee formed to discuss the matter was recommending the new bill should be compulsory from 1 October 2017.
It said the reason the new bills have not been used is firms are uncertain over their implementation and want to avoid wasting time and resources.
The alternative, to continue the voluntary pilot, was felt to be ‘futile’ as few extra bills would emerge in the next six to 12 months.
The committee said court hearing centres would need systems to receive and store electronic bills electronically, transmit them to the appropriate district judge and return them electronically to the parties at the end of the detailed or provisional assessment. It added the necessary arrangements for the county court ‘should not be difficult to set up but they will need to be done’.