The “new” electronic bill of costs has now been around long enough for a clear view to be formed as to its advantages and disadvantages.
However, as a starting point to judging its success, it is legitimate to look back at what Lord Justice Jackson stated the express aim of a new electronic bill should be in his Final Report:
“There are three requirements which have to be [emphasis added] satisfied:
(i) The bill must provide more transparent explanation than is currently provided, about what work was done in the various time periods and why.
(ii) The bill must provide a user-friendly synopsis of the work done, how long it took and why. This is in contrast to bills in the present format, which are turgid to read and present no clear overall picture.
(iii) The bill must be inexpensive to prepare. This is in contrast to the present bills, which typically cost many thousands of pounds to assemble.”
Scoring these in turn:
(i) 3/10 – The majority of electronic bills do provide more detail as to what and when work was done (in part because many bills now list every single letter, email and telephone call as individual items, often with a brief description of the purpose of the communication). There is nothing within the new electronic bill that assists as to the “why”.
(ii) 2/10 – The electronic bills do provide various summaries (eg by phase, task, activity). Again, this does nothing to assist in the “why”. Further, other than grouping work by phase, there is nothing within the new format that assists in giving an overall picture. Indeed, the fact that even a relatively large traditional bill might have run to one hundred items plus schedules, whereas a similar electronic bill might run to thousands of entries, tends to obscure rather than throw greater light on the overall picture.
(iii) 0/10 – No comment needed.