The Law Society this week issued a rallying call to solicitors to campaign against the imminent introduction of new civil court fees.
All claims worth more than £10,000 will be charged 5% of the value of the claim upfront. The fee for claims at £200,000 or above will be fixed at a maximum of £10,000.
The fees were announced earlier this month by the Ministry of Justice, which says they will raise an extra £120m a year to help fund the running of the court system.
Law Society president Andrew Caplen has already written to justice secretary Chris Grayling about the proposals and the Society has drafted a template letter that members can use to lobby MPs. An online survey about the potential impact was started earlier this week.
The new fees are set to come into force, subject to parliamentary approval, in April.
The Society has warned that personal injury, litigation and private client work are most likely to be affected, as well as cases involving small and medium-sized enterprises.
‘We will not let these changes go through without challenge,’ said Caplen. ‘Court fee hikes introduced by the government from April spell disaster for access to justice, pricing the public out of the courts and leaving small businesses saddled with debts they are due but unable to afford to recover.’
There is also disquiet about the potential unintended consequences of front-loading court fees.
Keith Etherington, Society council member for solicitors in civil litigation, said he has been ‘inundated’ with emails from practitioners concerned about the fees.
He said: ‘Many complain that the punitive effect of the fees undermine the Jackson reforms. A whole new industry of ATE and disbursement funding will arise making further inroads into the compensation that clients are entitled to. There are real concerns that the courts will be the domain of the rich only.’
A further consultation is open on extra charges for possession claims and general applications in civil proceedings.
Possession claim fees will rise by £75, while the fee for general applications will go up from £50 to £100 for applications made by consent and from £155 to £255 for contested claims. These increases will apply equally to all applicants.