What can’t you do online in 2015? Pay your bills (check), do the weekly shop (check), book a holiday (check), find romance (check, if you’re lucky!).
But try settling a small dispute with another business and you’ll find that there is no simple form to complete on the laptop or smartphone during a few snatched minutes of downtime. Instead you will need to enter the antiquated – and often lengthy and confusing – world that is our current court system.
And it is a system, according to our new Lord Chancellor Michael Gove, that needs to change. The former Education Secretary, turned his attention to the civil court system in his first major speech since the Conservatives election victory.
His verdict? Could do better!
‘The current system adds to stress at times of need, and restricts access to high quality resolution of disputes by simply being too complex, too bureaucratic and too slow,’ he said.
Highlighting the incredulity many small businesses feel at not being able to file their case entirely online he said: ‘It astounds them that they cannot be asked questions online and in plain English, rather than on paper and in opaque and circumlocutory jargon.’
Luckily for small businesses, often cash-strapped and time-poor, that could be about to change as the Government has already committed to investing in the technology that will streamline a system set in place several centuries ago. But how long will this take?
According to Mr. Gove: ‘Across our court and tribunal system we need to challenge whether formal hearings are needed at all in many cases.’ Rather, he said online solutions and telephone and video hearings, could make justice easier to access and reduce long and often repeated journeys to court.
This could save the government money as the court estate, the actual buildings themselves, currently account for around a third of the entire HM Courts and Tribunals Service budget. (And this, despite the fact that last year over a third of courts and tribunals sat for less than half their available hours).
More to the point it could save you money and time. Earlier this year court fees in the UK went up an astonishing 600 per cent and look like increasing again. Richard Thomas of Chester-based firm DTM Legal, writing in The Solicitors Journal recently said: ‘This is bad news for all of us, but is especially bad news for small businesses, which are especially exposed to the risk of exploitation by more wealthy and/or unscrupulous organisations.’
Once again the internet could prove to be the way forward. Keep clicking – and contact me at
S J Collections – http://www.debt-collections.co.uk/ if you need any collections or free advice.