News | General

2018 - The Year Of The E-Bill Of Costs!

05 January 2018

The new electronic bill will become compulsory from April 2018 in certain cases. The minutes published from the CPRC Committee confirm that the ultimate intention is that the compulsory pilot will be extended to all courts, but for the time being will be limited to the SCCO.

The limited roll-out is due in part to issues identified, namely that although the SCCO is confident that they have the IT capability to deal with the new bills, many County Courts do not and although further provision has been promised, it is not clear when this will happen. 

The pilot that was running on an optional basis had very little take-up by practitioners, so that only three bills have been filed and none have been assessed. The CPRC have stated that ‘on that scale no problems of any significance have emerged. The new bill certainly works.’ It is certainly interesting that they have come to this conclusion in the absence of a single assessment.  It was decided to make the pilot compulsory in order to increase the take-up so that a better analysis can be made of the new bill. 

There have currently been three attempts to try and create an electronic bill of costs. The first attempt by the ACL/Hutton Committee relied heavily on J-Codes. These were subsequently abandoned (perhaps it became apparent that as they were being used for a purpose that they had not been intended for, they were always going to be problematic, but perhaps even more compelling was the fact that America abandoned their usage as they did not even work for the purpose they were created for) and so the ACL attempted another version, which included space for the Points and Replies to be included within the bill spreadsheet (as if it was not complex enough already). The third attempt comes from a sub-committee set up by the CPRC and this version is attached to their published minutes and will likely be the precedent attached to the rules. 

None of those are compulsory, however, as even the bill prepared by the sub-committee has been recognised to have limitations and in certain circumstances (particularly any indemnity principle calculations where costs are claimed under an issue-based costs order). Thus, parties are free to prepare their own templates as long as they comply with the requirements set out in the PD. 

Changes to CPR 47 have been published with the minutes, although are too numerous (and lengthy) to reproduce in full here. Some of the key elements are that: 

The electronic bill will only apply to costs after April 2018, so a paper bill in the old format can still be filed for work undertaken up to that date in addition to an electronic bill for work undertaken after that date. 

The electronic bill will only apply (for the time being) to cases being heard in the SCCO and will not apply to cases where the proceedings are subject to fixed or scale costs or where the court orders otherwise. 

A precedent Q is not required if the spreadsheet already contains a breakdown in the same format. 

An email address must be provided when sending the bill to the court so that the court can return the bill electronically after the assessment.