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SBS Press Release 07-Feb-2002


Consumers, small businesses and solicitors can now make claims over the Internet to recover money owed to them by logging on to a new Court Service website, announced Michael Wills, Minister for the courts at the Lord Chancellor's Department.

Over 1.6 million claims were made in 2000 for money owed by one person to another - claims for unpaid debts, rent arrears or hire purchase payments; claims by suppliers of goods or services who have not been paid.

The Court Service is piloting a new online service, at, to allow consumers and businesses to make claims, for a fixed amount less than 100,000, from the convenience of their home or office 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. Nearly half of all homes now have Internet access but for those that don't, UK Online is providing access through a network of centres in, for example, schools, public libraries or community centres.

If the claim is undefended as most are - only 36,000 debt cases went to trial in the year 2000 - the money can be recovered without ever stepping inside a county court. Previously they would have had to either collect the forms from their local county court or print them off the Court Service website and then either return them to court in person or by post.

Michael Wills said:

"Going to court should always be a last resort. That is why the Government is promoting alternative ways of dispute resolution such as mediation or arbitration.

"However, there will always be some cases that need to go to court. The Court Service's new online service offers consumers, small businesses and solicitors the choice of making these claims online at a time and place convenient to them. Providing the claim is not defended, a creditor can recover a debt over the Internet, without ever going to a county court. There is an extensive online guide to help users of the new service and they can even pay the court fee by credit or debit card and check the progress of their claim over the Net.

"This is a significant step forward in our programme to modernise the courts, making them more accessible and providing a service that suits the needs of the people that use them, rather than the people that run them."

Ian Magee, Chief Executive of the Court Service said:

"The launch of the money claim online pilot is the Court Service's first step into interactive electronic services and is a significant milestone on the road towards meeting the Government's target of providing services on-line by 2005.

"We expect to have 25,000 claims made using the new online service by the end of this year. It will be quicker and easier to use for parties - and will take some pressure off court staff too. Later in the year the online service will be extended to larger solicitors' firms who have their own case management systems and to provide a fuller on-line service for defendants. All this will provide a more accessible and convenient service for people who need to use the courts."

After registering with the new secure website site, developed for the Court Service by EDS and EzGov, claimants create a user ID and password which they will need to use each time they log on. They then type in the name and address of the person who owes them money, the amount owed and details of their claim such as the goods and services provided and invoice numbers. The court fee will then be calculated automatically - 27 minimum - and which must be paid by credit or debit card. A statement of truth must then be "signed" by typing their name before the claim can be submitted.

The claim is then sent electronically to the County Court Bulk Centre in Northampton for issue in the name of Northampton County Court usually on the same day the claim is made. Claimants will be provided with a claim number to allow them to check the progress of their claim on-line, for example to see if the defendant has filed a defence, they can also enter judgment and apply for a warrant of execution over the Internet.

As with the current system, defendants receive the claim and response pack by post and will have 14 days to respond. They can then file an acknowledgement of service or defence online but a part or full admission of a claim still has to be filed by post. If the claim is defended it will be transferred to the defendant's (or the claimant's if the defendant is a business) local county court for trial.

Lord Justice Brooke, appointed by the Lord Chief Justice as judge in charge of modernisation, said:

"The judges welcome the launch of this new service for claimants. Our wish is that it should eventually be made easier for both claimants and defendants to communicate electronically with the courts. This is an important step down that road."

Andrew Pinder, the Government's e-envoy said:

"We're delighted to see this service launched. There are an increasing number of services being designed by the Government, which are looking at the needs of the citizen and how technology can help. This is one such service. By putting this service online, the Court Service is to be congratulated in creating a system which can help people avoid the need for what can be a lengthy and sometimes intimidating court process."

Notes for editors:

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