Points of Dispute and electronic Bills of Costs
A (minority) of electronic Bills of Costs that I see follow the Association of Costs Lawyers’ template e-bill.
This Bill enables Points of Dispute to be incorporated directly into the electronic spreadsheet.
For certain Bills, there may be advantages to incorporating Points of Dispute into the Bill, but I usually prepare Points of Dispute as a separate paper document. Often, when this happens, the other side’s Replies furiously complain about the failure to include the Points of Dispute within the e-bill.
This is curious.
The ACL e-bill is not the official model electronic bill. That is Precedent S (v2.0.1). Parties are free to use “another spreadsheet format” so long as it complies with various mandatory requirements. However, Precedent S is the approved model. Precedent S does not have a column for incorporating Points of Dispute. It was therefore not anticipated by the rule makers that Points of Dispute are to be incorporated into the electronic Bill.
As to Points of Dispute, PD 47 para.8.2 states:
“Points of dispute must be short and to the point. They must follow Precedent G in the Schedule of Costs Precedents annexed to this Practice Direction, so far as practicable.”
Precedent G is not an electronic spreadsheet. It is clearly intended to be a paper document.
Incorporating Points of Dispute into an electronic Bill is not following Precedent G. Incorporating Points of Dispute into an electronic Bill is, on the face of it, in breach of the rules and would render the Points of Dispute defective. No doubt, to the extent to which a court finds a combined Bill/Points of Dispute helpful, they would not take issue with the failure to follow Precedent G. It would certainly be wholly unattractive for a party who had used the ACL e-bill to then object to Points of Dispute being incorporated into the bill.
However, it is wholly misplaced for a party who fails to utilise Precedent S to then complain that the other party has followed the mandatory requirement to use Precedent G.