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What to do if someone owes you money or compensation for faulty goods or services

This advice applies to Scotland

This information applies to Scotland only

What to do if someone owes you money or compensation for faulty goods or services

When someone owes you money or compensation for faulty goods or services the action you should take depends on how much money is owed or how much the goods or services are worth.

When the value of what you are claiming is below £5,000 and the case is not complex you can use the simple procedure. You can use this procedure without having to employ a solicitor. The most common types of claim are:

  • compensation for faulty services, for example by builders, dry cleaners, garages
  • compensation for faulty goods, for example consumer goods like televisions or, washing machines which break down
  • disputes between landlords and tenants, for instance, rent arrears or compensation for not doing repairs
  • wages owed or money in lieu of notice.

If your claim is within the financial limits for the simple procedure but legally complicated, because it is hard to get evidence to prove your case, you may have to use different court procedures for which a solicitor will normally be required.

If you have a legally complicated case you should see an experienced adviser. If your claim is worth more than £5,000 it is advisable to use a solicitor to take any legal action. A solicitor may help you to solve the problem without going to court by using some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

More about alternative dispute resolution

Before applying to the court

You should not use the court to try to settle a claim if there are other ways of settling it first. For example, if a television doesn’t work, there is no point in applying to the court immediately for compensation. You must contact the shop which sold you it first to try to solve the problem. If you cannot get the problem solved by negotiation then you can make a claim in court.

Which court deals with the case

A claim in a consumer case can usually be made using the simple procedure in the sheriff court nearest to where you live. You could use the sheriff court in the area where the trader has its business, but if this is elsewhere in the UK it may not be convenient. You can ask the court nearest to where you live to check if it is the right court. Sheriff courts are listed in the 'Courts and Tribunals Locations' box on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals service website.

What happens when you raise a claim under the simple procedure

All the forms and rules for the simple procedure are available on the website of the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service.

This section of this page provides a simple summary of the procedure for the claim.

As the person raising the claim you are the Claimant. The person you are taking action against is the Respondent.

A claim is raised by completing  Form 3A.

When the claim is not simply for money, the value of the claim must be within the financial limit of up to £5,000. The form asks you if you want to make a claim for:

  • payment of money
  • the delivery or return of goods, for example, getting a DVD player returned which has been sent away for repairs
  • the completion of some contract of service, for example completion of building work agreed in a contract.

Claim forms are available from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals service website at www.scotcourts.gov.uk. The website also provides guidance about how to complete and submit the form.

For full details about how to complete the simple procedure claim form and what to do after that see Taking someone to court.

If the details of the case are complicated or you are worried about filling in the form you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Registering the claim

You should give the completed form to the sheriff clerk along with the court fee. 

The sheriff clerk checks the claim form and registers it.

Timetable for the case is issued

The sheriff clerk issues a timetable for the case on Form 3D. The timetable only has two dates:

  • the date by which your claim form must be 'served' on the person you are claiming against
  • the date by which the person you are claiming against MUST respond.

Claim form is sent to the person you are claiming against

The person you are claiming against is known as the Respondent. You can decide how you want the claim form sent to the respondent. You can make choices about this when you fill in the original claim form.

The form can be sent officially by the sheriff clerk, or your solicitor. It will involve a fee both for the court and the court officer who delivers the form. This court officer is called a sheriff officer. When it is delivered officially like this it is 'served' on your respondent.

More about filing in the claim form

The person you are making the claim against

The person you are making the claim against can respond by:

  • doing nothing. In this case you will be successful in the claim and the court will order the amount claimed to be paid by the person you have claimed against. You have to watch your dates because you have to fill in a form asking the court to make the orders you asked for when you made your claim. You do this on an Application for a Decision Form 7A. If you don't send this form within the time limit the claim will be dismissed
  • admitting the claim and paying you in full. In this case it is up to you to notify the court that the claim has been settled
  • admitting the claim but asking for time to pay 
  • denying the claim or challenging the court’s right to deal with the case. In this case the person you are claiming against must write to the court stating why s/he is denying or defending the claim. S/he may also write a separate letter to the court stating her/his defence. 

Claim is in dispute

When the person you are claiming against disputes the claim the sheriff has to decide what to do next.

The sheriff has the following options:

  • refer both parties in the case for alternative dispute resolution
  • arrange a case management discussion
  • arrange a hearing
  • consider whether or not to make a decision about the claim without a hearing
  • dismiss the claim or make a decision because the claim is unlikely to be successful.

Appeals

An appeal can be made to the Sheriff Appeal Court within 14 days of the day the decision was made. A fee is payable to register the appeal. The help of a solicitor is usually essential and subsequent costs could be high. Legal aid is available for an appeal against a decision from a simple procedure action, although it is not available for taking the claim itself.

Enforcement of court order

If the person you claimed against loses and doesn’t pay, you will have to go back to court and ask for a sheriff officer to have the decree or decision enforced. Only a sheriff officer can enforce it. A fee will be payable to enforce the court decree or decision.

What will it cost

The simple procedure is designed to be a quick, low cost procedure. If you start a claim, you will have to pay a court fee. There will also be a charge to pay if the claim form is 'served' by a sheriff officer. The sheriff clerk can advise you of current court fees. You can also check fee rates on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service website at www.scotcourts.gov.uk.

Apart from court fees other expenses may be incurred, for example loss of wages, expert reports, travel expenses and the cost of a solicitor if one is employed.

You may be entitled to exemption from certain court fees. You should seek further advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

The sheriff clerk will calculate expenses when the sheriff has made a decision on the claim. In cases where expenses can be awarded if you are successful you will have expenses awarded to you but there is a limit on what expenses can be awarded when the value of the claim is below £3000.

When the claim is defended the costs will be higher.

For claims under £3000

There are special rules on the amount of expenses which can be awarded. When the claim is for under £200 no expenses can be awarded. For claims of £200-£1,500 in most cases only limited expenses can be awarded to the successful party, but the maximum is £150. Where the claim is more than £1,500 but under £3000 expenses up to 10% of the claim may be awarded.

For claims of £3001 to £5000

The rules about expenses for claims of this amount follow the general rule that whoever is successful pays the costs of the other side. If one party has a solicitor these expenses could be high.  A sheriff can also make a decision about how to deal with the expenses of each party.

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