Now it will cost you more to stand up for your rights

22 April 2014

gavelConsumer justice just got more expensive. For many people, small claims court offers the opportunity for aggrieved consumers to obtain financial redress through the court system, at a relatively low cost. However, from today, most small claims court fees are set to increase massively, in a move that will dismay and deter many consumers.

From 22 April, the cost to make a claim of between £3,000 and £5,000 will rise by 71% from £120 to £205. Worse, the fee for claims from £5,000 to £10,000 will go up by almost 82% from £245 to £445. So much for small claims court being a ‘low-cost’ means of resolving disputes without the need for a lawyer. The Ministry of Justice claims the new pricing structure is "crucial" to cover the cost of cases.

Although small claims court can be used by small businesses claiming for unpaid invoices, it is commonly used by consumers to resolve disputes over faulty or incomplete work, or failures under consumer acts, like when stores refuse to refund faulty goods.

If you are on benefits or have a low income, fees may be waived and it is important to note that the fees for the smallest claims, those under £1,000, remain unchanged, on a sliding scale between £35 and £70. All fees are cheaper if using the Government’s MoneyClaimOnline service.

However, Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice thinks small claims court is a last resort, warning that claimants could still end up out of pocket even if they win, if the compensation awarded doesn’t cover the costs or they need to pay more to enforce the ruling: "Cases can drag on for years, and people often recover minimal compensation after paying off their other costs."

Alternative dispute resolution services, such as mediation, or ombudsman schemes (assuming there is one that covers the service/product you are disputing) might be a more cost effective route to a similar result.

TOPICS:   Economy

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