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19 April 2010 — DIFC Courts Increases Small Claims Tribunal Threshold from AED 100,000 to AED 500,000

19 April 2010 — DIFC Courts Increases Small Claims Tribunal Threshold from AED 100,000 to AED 500,000

April 19, 2010

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New Order will ensure greater access, particularly for non-employment-related cases

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 19 April 2010: The DIFC Courts, the Dubai International Financial Centre’s (DIFC) independent, common law judicial system, has today announced the start of the consultation period on a new order that widens the DIFC Courts’ small claims jurisdiction.

The new order increases the limit on non-employment-related disputes to amounts of up to AED 500,000, and will allow the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) to hear employment cases of any amount, provided parties elect to use the small claims mechanism, in line with the Court’s vision of ensuring access to efficient, transparent and fair judicial services. The new order follows pressure from the business and legal community to allow greater use of the SCT, especially for employment and debt related disputes.

Available for both employment and non-employment claims, the Small Claims Tribunal has proved to be a highly successful service, with a proven track record of resolving 90% of disputes within three weeks, in an uncomplicated, cost-efficient manner. Lawyers are not permitted to represent any of the parties involved in proceedings before the SCT, unless the Tribunal Judge decides otherwise.

The DIFC Courts’ created the Small Claims Tribunal with the aim of making the Courts more accessible, through lower costs and the swift, private nature of the legal proceedings. An independent user satisfaction survey of the Court’s users conducted in 2009 indicated that 100% of parties involved would recommend the DIFC Courts.

Bringing a claim to the Tribunal is simple, and begins with the claimant simply filling in a form and lodging it with the SCT Registry. The parties concerned then attend a consultation before a SCT Judge who attempts to mediate the dispute. If the dispute is not resolved at the consultation stage, the matter is then fixed for a hearing within one week of the consultation, at which point the SCT Judge issues directives.

Amna Al Owais, SCT Registrar and Deputy Registrar at the DIFC Courts said: “The Small Claims Tribunal was set up to enable swift, efficient access to justice for people with disputes under a certain monetary value. We are delighted to be able to expand the remit of the tribunal mechanism. It is something we are extremely proud of at the DIFC Courts.”

“Prior to this order, the small claims tribunal could hear any civil case if the amount in dispute was up to 100,000 Dirhams; these were mostly employment cases but did include breaches of contract, for example. With the significant new amendment, employment cases of any amount and non-employment cases of up to 500,000 Dirhams can be heard by the small claims tribunal if both parties agree in writing. This new order essentially means that the majority of employment cases could be heard efficiently and swiftly by the small claims tribunal,” she continued.

Ali Al Hashimi, a Partner at Global Advocates and member of the Court User’s Committee commented: “The small claims tribunal is one of the stand-out features at the DIFC Courts that has helped many people with cases that benefit from the lower cost and swifter service that the small claims tribunal offers. The increase that has been announced today, relating to non-employment-related cases, will certainly be welcomed by many others with disputes of less than 500,000 Dirhams.”

Established to deal with the commercially sophisticated transactions, DIFC Courts provide comprehensive legal redress in civil and commercial matters. The Courts have recently launched a consultation period, open for one month, which encourages and welcomes feedback from the community that use the DIFC Courts.

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