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The New Bill Of Costs

22 June 2017

The new bill of costs is due to become compulsory in October this year, but is it a simple question of which version?

As the position currently stands, precedent AB is the bill that was prepared to match the J-codes and that is the bill currently being used in the pilot, although it appears that the pilot has yet to see many bills. However, that bill was universally disliked, so the ACL had another crack at it with a revised bill that also seeks to include Points of Dispute and Replies into a single document.

The PD also currently states that a spreadsheet bill in any format may be served, provided that it:

  • reports and aggregates costs based on the phases, tasks, activities and expenses defined in Schedule 1 to this PD;
  • reports summary totals in a form comparable to Precedent AB;
  • automatically recalculates intermediate and overall summary totals if input data is changed; and
  • contains all calculations and reference formulae in a transparent manner so as to make its full function available to the court and all other parties.

PD51, 1.1A(b) states that the rules committee will fix the final version of the compulsory bill at its meeting in May, although it is hard to see how they can make a reasoned decision, especially as neither have been properly tested through the pilot scheme.

In addition, problems could be encountered in relation to the issue of data. The bill is to be served in pdf format and a copy of the spreadsheet provided by email ‘or other electronic means’. This provision was created because the original bill was too large to print. The definition in the CPR of ‘other electronic means’ is by fax, which is therefore redundant in the circumstances. Thus, a copy must be provided by email to both the other side and the court. However, as a security measure, most companies and courts have a limit to the size of document that can be sent by email, usually (but not always) 10Mb. The current precedent AB is 3Mb without any additional data. The Association of Costs Lawyer’s (ACL) current version of the bill is smaller, but because it includes Points and Replies, for very large bills, the date limit could still be exceeded.

IT departments are generally not happy about flexing the data limit. Where, then does that leave you if no one can receive your electronic bill? How can the court assess the bill without being able to see it?

These are all areas that have not been addressed in the pilot due to the poor take up of the bill to use in the same. The reasons for this are clear: the bill is cumbersome, unnecessarily lengthy, requires a detailed itemization of every single letter sent and is more time-consuming on assessments. The ACL’s second attempt gets rid of the j-codes but substitutes these with other, artificial codes, making its completion just as cumbersome. It is also not environmentally friendly, since the totals are carried over each time to a separate sheet in the pdf version, meaning a whole page with some lines and one set of numbers for every section.

However, with neither bill having been properly tested in a pilot, the profession and clients are flying blind when the bill (whichever one it may be) becomes compulsory in October.