Is there an Alternative to Making a Claim in the Small Claims Court?

If someone owes you money, you can make a claim to the Small Claims Court (part of the County Court). A small claim can be made for claims up to the value of £10,000.

What are the problems with making a small claim?

They are not always as straightforward as you might expect. If, for instance, the claim is defended, the matter can become relatively complex, involving the filing of further information with the court, potential defences and counter claims, and arguments between the parties. Unless you are sure your claim will not be defended, this can act as a deterrent to making a claim in the Small Claims Court.

There is also the risk that the debtor may not have the resources to pay the amount you are claiming, even if you were to win. This would leave you with additional costs on top of the amount owed.

Furthermore, the issue of legal costs can deter people from making a claim.  Generally, with the exception of certain fixed costs, such as the court fee for filing your claim, you cannot recover your legal costs from the defendant if you win.

The Alternatives

Money Claim Online

The Government runs a service called Money Claim Online (MCOL). This scheme is operated by HM Courts and Tribunals Services (the Government Department which runs the administration of the court system in England and Wales).

Money Claim online is a website where you can log in and provide all the information in relation to your claim, and where you can respond to a claim made against you through the service.

What are the requirements for Money Claim Online?

To use MCOL, your claim must be for a fixed amount below £100,000. There must be one claimant and no more than two defendants. If you are the claimant, you must have an address in England and Wales (even if you live abroad) and an email address in order for the correspondence to be sent to. You must also register for an account with the UK Government Gateway.

Can I use MCOL to claim money from a company outside England and Wales?

No, you cannot use MCOL unless the individual or a business you are claiming against has an address in England or Wales.

How do I use MCOL?

Money Claim online is a simple tool to use. You will be required to register with the website and with the UK Government Gateway, and provide full details of your claim (no evidence is required at this stage). You must provide all your details in a concise manner when making your claim. You will then be asked to provide payment for the service.

You must be honest in the details you provide: if you are not truthful in the details you provide in relation to your claim, you could face contempt of court charges. It is, therefore, vital that all details you provide are true and accurate.

What happens next?

Once your claim has been submitted, the documentation will be sent out to the defendant setting out the details of your claim. The defendant then has 14 days in which to respond (starting on the day which they are expected to receive the documents by mail – usually taken to be 5 days from the day on which the documents were posted).

The defendant may not admit liability immediately or at all, and their response could be:

  • Admitting they owe you money, but not the full amount claimed
  • Requesting more time in which to pay the money
  • Admitting that they owe the money, but then failing to pay, or
  • Denying the claim all together, and may make a counter-claim against you

What if the defendant ignores the claim?

If the defendant ignores the claim, you will be given the opportunity to ask for judgment ‘by default’ and, in some cases, ask the court to enforce your claim. This will usually be done by sending round the debt collectors.

What happens if the defendant refuses the claim, or I am unhappy with the amount offered?

If the defendant denies liability, or they offer an unsatisfactory amount to settle your claim, your case may then be transferred to the local county court for hearing.

Mediation

Another alternative to going to the Small Claims Court is mediation. Mediation can be a highly successful avenue to resolve a money dispute without incurring unnecessary costs. However, both parties must be willing to go to mediation.