The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) today admitted to overcharging court users for certain types of cases, and is to both reduce those fees and refund about £9m to litigants who have overpaid.
The full details have yet to be released, but the change affects a number of civil proceedings in the magistrates’ courts, fees for general applications in insolvency proceedings, the fees charged for High Court judges sitting as arbitrators, and certain proceedings in the Court of Protection.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman told Litigation Futures that around a dozen of more than 300 civil court fees were affected by the “administrative errors”, and 90% of cases concerned council tax liability orders sought by local authorities, where they were overcharged just £2.50 in each case.
In a statement to Parliament today, justice minister Lucy Frazer said the MoJ would be establishing a refund scheme to reimburse people the amounts they have been over-charged.
This will also include those who have been overcharged fees to commence stage 3 low-value personal injury claims.
“The intention when these fees were prescribed was that they should be set at, or below, full cost recovery levels and it was on that basis that they were approved by Parliament,” Ms Frazer said.
“The reduction to these fees follows a thorough and detailed review undertaken by officials in the Ministry of Justice into the cost of these proceedings.
“Our review has identified a number of cases where the fees charged were above full cost recovery levels. We are therefore taking action to reduce those fees…
“Officials are working on the detailed arrangements and full details of the scheme, including the types of case affected, and how to apply, will be announced in due course.”
The minister pledged to continue the review of court fees, including the methodology for setting them, “to minimise the risk of this issue re-occurring in future”.