Dubai, United Arab Emirates;25 May 2015: Following the conclusion of a public consultation, the DIFC Courts today announced a series of practical enhancements that will help businesses access justice more simply and cost effectively.
The first sees the default jurisdiction of the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) extended to cover all claims up to AED500,000 in value, regardless of the nature of the case. The move will benefit businesses by offering cheaper, faster and more discreet access to justice. The emphasis at SCT hearings, which are held in private with a presiding judge, is amicable dispute resolution and parties are usually not represented by lawyers. This reduces costs and expedites the process, with 90% of cases before the DIFC Courts’ SCT settled within four weeks from the start of the case, without the need for a trial.
This also means that the Court of First Instance (CFI) will now hear cases greater than AED500,000 in value. The move was necessitated by the increasingly large and complex cases heard by the DIFC Courts and will free up the resources of the CFI and its judges. In 2014, the DIFC Courts received AED1.76bn of claims, with the average claim amount in the CFI increasing by 25% to AED 42 million per case. DIFC Courts judges retain the right to send particularly technical cases which fall under the new SCT threshold to the CFI.
The second enhancement sees the introduction of a simplified schedule of DIFC Courts fees. Court users will now pay a streamlined sliding fee that includes the hearing fees for any in-chamber meetings, a Case Management Conference, a Pre-trial Review and up to three days of trial. This reduces the number of processes required, again enhancing efficiency. Moreover, the DIFC Courts have taken steps to reduce fees for claims at the lower end of the financial spectrum, while removing the $250 fee for enforcing the DIFC Courts own judgments, and introducing a new reimbursement policy that encourages early settlement.
Following a successful soft launch, fees have also been finalised for the new Business Visit Visas service to support international legal counsel flying in to appear before the DIFC Courts. Arranging a Category A 30 or 90 day visa will cost US$550 for a two-day turnaround, while a Category B 30 day visa will be US$1,600 for the same turnaround time.
Mark Beer, OBE, Chief Executive and Registrar of the DIFC Courts, said: “The nature of cases and the requirements of business change over time and it is incumbent on leading court systems to evolve and adapt in response. Cases before the DIFC Courts are becoming larger and more complex with each passing year, while the businesses and lawyers using our services are increasingly based outside the UAE. The changes announced today will help increase access to justice while ensuring the DIFC Courts’ resources and expertise continue to be deployed where they are of most benefit to the region’s business community.”
All the enhancements were put out to consultation in March 2015 for a period of one month. The DIFC Courts received a number of suggestions from the legal and business communities which have been adopted in the final drafts. Full details of all changes, including the new fees schedule, can be found on the DIFC Courts website or following links: