The Civil Justice Council (CJC) has told the government that the proposed £500 fixed fee for handing cases through the RTA portal may be “unrealistic.”
The report goes on to recommend that the government should “give more detailed consideration to the issues involved and afford affected businesses more time to plan and prepare effectively for change.”
Sharply pulling into focus the effects any such decision on fees could affect genuine access to justice, the report makes reference to amongst others, Professor Fenn’s recommendations, stating “a cautious approach should be taken to the figures set out in the Final Costs Report… at the present time the most appropriate revision of those figures should be to update them in the light of any inflationary change since they were formulated.
“A full scale revision of the figures should perhaps best take place when the reforms have had time to work. In that way a proper revision to the figures can take place in, for instance, 2014 which could be based on evidence derived from, and a properly researched impact assessment of, costs from actual work done under the reformed regime.
any fixed recoverable fees should accurately reflect the amount of work that is required.
“Such a revision could then properly take account of the costs of both simple, straightforward cases as well as more complex cases and as a consequence be reflective of more realistic levels of fixed recoverable costs.”
The response goes on to say that any fixed recoverable fees should accurately reflect the amount of work that is required in managing a personal injury claim. Considering at a minimum, the regulatory guidelines whenever a file is opened, “it may be regarded as unrealistic to expect all the necessary work and negotiations to be carried out against a fixed fee limited to £500.”
The CJC also makes reference to a firm’s marketing costs, noting that the abolition of referral fees does not mean marketing costs with be significantly reduced, and that marketing costs may increase due to the ever increasing competitiveness of the market place.
On a number of specific issues, the CJC recommends that in relation to proposed different rates above and below £10,000, that “greater incentive for agreement on liability is recommended and might be achieved by a differential roughly similar to the 12.5-100% success fee mark-up which currently applies in RTA cases.
The effect would also be to create a greater incentive for not exiting the Portal. “This recommendation stretches to the proposed difference between RTA and EL/PL rates, repeating that a comprehensive assessment is required and that any final decision on the difference between the two rates should be based on evidence.”
David Bott, Managing Partner of law firm Bott and Co commented “Allowing the reforms to bed in prior to a full review, and the costs reflecting the actual amount of work needed taking into account the varying nature of work, are inherently sensible suggestions, and ones which I fully support.”