The defendant costs specialists

Filing electronic bill of costs

By on Apr 6, 2018 | 6 comments

The new electronic bill of costs is now upon us and it already causing confusion at the most basic level.

Costs Lawyer magazine reports ACL council member Claire Green, who has paid a key role in the development of the new bill and as been running the ACL’s training courses on the new bill, warning:

“the new bill will ‘change the whole ethos and environment we’re working in’ and too many people seem unaware of what’s coming – as one small example, you now have to serve the bill on the court at the same time you serve it on the other party.”

This would be a surprising development if true.

Previously, detailed assessment proceedings were commenced by serving the bill on the paying party.  It was not, at that point, filed with the court.  Points of Dispute were served in response, but not filed.  Optional Replies were then served, but not filed.  It was only if, and when, a request was made to the court for detailed assessment that the various documents (and bill) were filed.

It would therefore be odd if the rules had now been changed so that the courts were to be bombarded with 1000’s of bills (both hard copy and electronically) at a stage of the assessment process where they have no involvement or interest and where most matters will settle without the need for any input from the court.

The problem is caused by the wording of PD 47 para.5.1A:

Whenever electronic bills are served or filed at the court, they must also be served or filed in hard copy, in a manageable paper format as shown in the pdf version of Precedent S.  A copy of the full electronic spreadsheet version must at the same time be provided to the paying party and filed at the court by e-mail or other electronic means.”

The first sentence appears tolerably clear:

  1. When an electronic bill is served it must be served both electronically and in hard copy; and
  2. When an electronic bill is filed it must be filed both electronically and in hard copy.

The second sentence is a clear as mud and is clearly the cause of the confusion.

I believe the correct position is set out in Cook on Costs 2018:

“The electronic bill of costs cannot be fully printed out on paper.  A summary version only will have been served in hard copy on the paying party.  The full version will have been sent electronically.  When requesting a hearing date, the summary paper version will need to be lodged with the N258 in the usual way together with the various other accompanying documents as described above.  At the time of writing, the only court email address currently available is the SCCO’s, namely sccoebills@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk.”

This appears to mirror the current position (other than the fact that service/filing must also be electronic).

Further support comes from Senior Costs Judge Gordon-Saker, speaking at the Law Society Commercial Litigation Conference on 16 October 2017, who confirmed that the bill will be emailed to the court at the same time as lodging papers for assessment, together with the paper version.

Poorly drafted rules are the least of the problems to come.

    6 Comments

  1. oh no , they are still using the same draftsmen for the rules …… ACL backing this? oh no.

    Most bills served do not go to D/A, why would the court want them upon service? or maybe this is to collate data and ring fence the next extension to fixed costs coming in 2020… oh no did I let the cat out of the bag….

    billsdrawnout

    6th April 2018

  2. Whoever at the ACL thought this was a good idea? Make costs more complicated, costly and time consuming and justify the next waive of reforms…. I thought it was off that Jackson was at their last conference, I didn’t realise that the ACL were his puppet.

    In my view everything, Budgets, this, everything is a determined way to force fixed costs across the board and make it somewhat palatable. Jackson has carefully done this by delivering the damage by way of the Chinese method of Lingchi; execution by way of a thousand cuts.

    Why force firms to spend more money on systems and administration when there is less profit? The big firms will survive the small man in an office doing the best for his community will go bust.

    As for the Courts? Are you serious that this will save time? It’s utter madness.

    The revolutionary zeal of reform that Jackson has brought in has done our system no favours. There is less access to justice, solicitors can’t make a profit without cutting corners, and the downturn in the profession has meant that there are companies out there to just attack fixed costs. No your not entitled to the full rubbish fixed costs either. Want to take a success fee? No new companies sprouting up saying you can’t have that either. It is madness!!!

    It’s not about streamlining or making things better it’s about big insurance companies making more money. The root of it all is making the people at the top richer, not about protecting the general people.

    Law isn’t supposed to be about that. Look at CPR 1.1 it’s about putting people on an equal footing. It’s not about that any more and it is a shame…a real shame.

    Realist

    6th April 2018

  3. I’m waiting for the inevitable kick off about which court email to use, not to mention the possibility that an exported excel file may be filtered out by outlook and junked….with no one any the wiser.

    That this would be implemented without being properly trialled and tested, and based on rules that anyone can see are inadequate, is horrifying.

    Re the comment above, I would agree save for the caveat that I have grave doubts anyone behind this is capable of such strategic foresight. It’s much more likely they are plumbers being asked to build a house.

    Catty McWTF

    9th April 2018

  4. (b) the bills of costs relate to costs recoverable between the parties for work undertaken after 6 April 2018 (“the Transition Date”).

    So the case concludes on 5 April 2018, and the bill is prepared from 10-14 April 2018. without getting into a debate about the definition of ‘costs (AGAIN), a strict reading must be that the substantive costs are in the old format, but the cost of preparing and checking the bill are in the new format….

    That seems….odd.

    Cat Mcflap

    10th April 2018

  5. Is anyone changing the way they draft PODs? Asking for a friend…

    Sarah

    16th April 2018

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *