HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has launched the first phase of the new Online Court which will handle small money claims of up to £10,000. The roll-out means that professional firms may now find that dissatisfied clients start claims for compensation online.

The new Court has been released to the public in the beta phase which means that HM Courts and Tribunals Service is making improvements based on feedback from users.  Claimants can still use existing Money Claim Online (MCOL) if they prefer while the new service is in beta testing.

The Online Court is intended to make it quicker and easier for people to claim money owed, resolve disputes out of court and access mediation.

The roll-out has faced controversy. LegalFutures reported that Mr Justice Birss, the chair of the Civil Procedure Rule Committee’s Online Court subcommittee, complained that the system “may have been oversold” and “currently does not take the user any further than MCOL”.

However, Mr Justice Birss recognised the progress the new service represented. “When it is complete this new online route will give members of the public and small businesses a more user-friendly way to access justice. The system now being made available to the public is the first stage in that new route,” he said in a HMCTS press release.

An earlier pilot of the new system was tested by more than 1,400 people. The Ministry of Justice says that eight out of ten early users, including individuals and small businesses, found the service easy to use.

“Lord Briggs called for an online court to handle claims of up to £25,000 in his report on the structure of the civil courts in 2016,” said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions. “This is the first step in realising his vision and it is likely in the future that many claims, including professional negligence claims, will be settled online.”

Reports on the launch of the first release of the Online Court have been published by Legal Futures, Which? and the Law Society Gazette.

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