Step five: Dealing with the trader's response to a claim
If you take a trader to court for a consumer problem, the court sends the trader a copy of your claim form so that they know why you're taking them to court and what you want them to do.
The trader can respond to your claim in a number of ways. This page explains what the trader's options are, what to do if you get a directions questionnaire from the court and what happens if the trade doesn't respond to the claim.
The trader's response to your claim
When the trader gets the claim form, they can respond in a number of ways:
- admit all of the claim
- admit part of the claim
- deny the claim and put in a defence. The defence tries to show why your claim is not valid
- make a counterclaim. This is where the trader answers your claim with a claim of their own
- negotiate with you out of court. The trader may try to offer you less than the amount you’re claiming to avoid going to court. They are within their rights to continue to negotiate with you right up until the date of the court hearing
- ignore the claim. If this happens, you can ask the court to enter judgment by default. This is where the judge can decide you’ve automatically won the case because the trader didn't reply.
If the trader only admits part of the claim
If the trader admits part of the claim, they will fill in court form N9. The court will send this form to you, together with court form N225A, which asks you whether you want to accept the trader's offer.
Fill in the bottom half of form N225A, saying what you want to do and return it to the court by the date shown on the form.
Time limits for the trader to respond
The trader must respond to the claim within 14 days from the date the claim is served on them. If the claim is sent to the trader by post, the date of service is the second day after the actual date it was posted. This allows for delays.
Depending on the situation, the trader can send the acknowledgment of service back to the court within 14 days and then complete a defence within 30 days.
The court will send you a copy of the trader's response forms.
Filling in the directions questionnaire
If the trader wants to defend the case, the court will send you and the trader a directions questionnaire to fill in. The judge will use information given on the forms to decide how to deal with the case. The court will expect you to talk to the trader about the directions questionnaire if you can and try to agree an approach to the case.
Using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to settle the case
If you're using the small claims track, the directions questionnaire asks whether you would like to use the Small Claims Mediation Service. This is a free and confidential alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service provided by the court. You can only use the mediation service if both sides agree.
Mediation is conducted over the phone. If it doesn’t work, the case will be put forward for a hearing in court. The judge won’t know what happened at mediation so it won't affect the outcome.
If your case is going to be heard in the fast track or multi track, you'll have to pay to use a court mediation service.
You can also use other methods of ADR if you prefer, for example mediation provided by a trade association.
At this stage, you or the trader can ask to stop the case for up to a month to use ADR to settle the matter.
If you refuse to use ADR to try to settle the case
If you refuse to use ADR to try to settle the case, you must say why on the directions questionnaire. The court can impose penalties if your refusal is unreasonable. This could mean you get a lower pay-out than you wanted if you win the case or you may have to pay extra costs.
If the trader doesn't reply
If the trader doesn't reply within 14 days from the date of service, you can ask the court to enter judgment by default. This means the judge can decide you’ve won the case because the trader has failed to respond.
If the trader does reply after the 14-day limit and gives a good reason for not replying sooner, the judge can still consider their response until your claim for judgement by default is agreed.
You can also apply for a judgment by default if the trader admits the claim but doesn’t make an offer to pay you or makes an offer to pay you nothing. This is called a nil offer.
Applying for judgment by default
If you want to apply for judgment by default, it depends whether you stated how much money you were claiming for.
If you were claiming for a set amount of money
If you made a paper claim, the court will send you court form N225 Request for judgement and reply to admission (specified amount). You can fill in the bottom half of this form to ask the court for a judgment by default.
If you started your claim online, you can use the online request form at www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk.
If judgment by default is entered against the trader, the court will send a judgment order form telling them:
- how much money to pay
- when to pay it
- the address where the money is to be sent (not the court).
If you did not say how much money you were claiming
If you apply for a judgment by default without asking for a specific amount of money, the court will pass the case onto a judge. The judge will decide whether a court hearing is needed and if so, what evidence should be provided.
Other useful information
- For more information on the Small Claims Mediation Service, go to: www.gov.uk