Small firms ‘priced out of justice’ due to soaring court fees
William Fox Bregman, Partner with Ellis Jones Solicitors, was recently quoted in The Independent warning that soaring civil court fees are pricing individuals and small businesses out of justice. William says that increasingly banks and other big businesses are being let off the hook.
He has cited the case of five clients who have decided not to claim for the mis-selling of financial products and warned that proposed reforms are “punitive and unworkable.”
Large increases in the upfront costs of taking a civil case to court were introduced by the Government in March this year. A consultation on increasing these fees even further – in some cases by as much as 100 per cent – ended this month.
William, who heads Ellis Jones’ specialist banking and finance department, said individuals and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) were most likely to be affected.
“SMEs are the backbone of our economy and should be supported. In my view these proposed reforms are disproportionate, punitive and unreasonably restrictive,” he said.
He added: “access to justice is the cornerstone of our judicial system. However, larger companies and institutions will hide behind, or exploit, the reform in the knowledge that proceedings are unlikely to be issued due to the high level of court fee required.
“Clients are likely to panic and not pursue a claim if their first substantive step in the process is a £20,000 court fee.”
It was revealed earlier this year that banking and finance lawyers at Ellis Jones had handled over 125 cases involving the mis-selling of interest rate hedging products (IHRP) and successfully reclaimed more than £20 million for clients.
But William said: “I’ve had five clients already that have knowingly not issued a claim because of the size of the court fee, which means the banks have won by default.
“Large institutions, like banks, have deeper pockets. It’s totally wrong that because of that they win by default despite their obvious and undeniable wrongdoing.”
The Law Society has also criticised the plan to increase civil court fees. Law Society President Jonathan Smithers said: “Small and medium sized businesses are likely to be disproportionately affected by the government’s proposals.
“Doubling some fees to £20,000 would price small businesses out of exercising their legal rights, forcing some into insolvency as they have no way of recovering debts they are rightly owed.”
For the full story by The Independent on soaring civil court fees, please click here.