Civil court fees for money claims over £10,000 have risen to five per cent of the value of the claim.
The controversial fee increase, of up to 600 per cent in some cases, affects both specified and unspecified claims. They will be capped however at £10,000 for claims of £200,000 or more.
There will also now be a fee of 4.5 per cent of the claim’s value for claims over £10,000 issued in the County Court Business Centre. A 10 per cent discount remains on all money claims made online.
The changes come after a series of objections from parties including The Law Society, which claimed the new fees are tantamount to “selling justice.”
Despite widespread opposition, a final House of Lords vote approved the changes last week.
The Law Society is now mounting a legal challenge in a bid to kick-start a judicial review. It has sent a pre-action protocol letter and is waiting for the government’s response.
The society’s president Andrew Caplen said: “The government appears to be on a mission to turn the courts into a profit centre, amounting to a flat tax on those seeking justice.
“The increases may leave small and medium-sized businesses saddled with debts they are due but unable to afford to recover.”
But justice minister Shailesh Vara said: “Access to justice is a fundamental principle of our legal system and this is not threatened. 90 per cent of the claims will be unaffected by these changes and waivers will also be available for those who cannot afford to pay.”
Critics say some claims will now attract fee increases of almost 600 per cent. For example, if a claim is for £150,000, under the previous system, the fee would have been £1,115. From today (March 9) the court fee will be £7,500.
The Civil Justice Council, which represents court users and judges, said claimants will simply pass on the increased costs. It argued that lenders and landlords will review rates and rents and recover them from mortgage payers and tenants.
Its statement on the changes added: “No account has been taken of the impact of the large fee increases imposed only eight months before these proposals were published.
“Another major concern is the disproportionate cost effects of this set of fee rises. The current measures have an adverse effect on lower value claimants. For example, any application made in claims of £1,500 or less will cost more than the fee for commencing proceedings.”
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is yet to respond to a separate consultation on changes to fees for eviction and possession claims.
The department has proposed that the cost of bringing a claim for eviction will go up from £280 to £355. Its consultation also states that for those who use the Possession Claims Online service, the fee will rise from £250 to £325.
Fees for claims in the Small Claims Court, for claims worth up to £9,999, remain unchanged.
By Marcel LeGouais