The rules about making a court claim
If you decide to go to court to sort out your consumer problem, you will be expected to stick to rules that cover court action. These rules are set out by the Ministry of Justice and include:
- The Civil Procedure Rules, and
- Practice Direction on pre-action conduct.
If you or the trader don't follow these rules, the court will take this into account when they make their decision. If you haven't co-operated, you may find that the case won't be heard or that the amount you are awarded if you win is reduced.
This page tells you more about what the law says and the rules you and the trader must follow.
The Civil Procedure Rules
The court wants to make sure that each case is dealt with fairly. If you decide that you want to take someone to court, both you and the trader will be expected to co-operate with each other as far as possible. The Civil Procedure Rules are there to make sure that:
- you and the trader are on an equal footing
- you and the trader have tried to use other methods of sorting out the problem. This is called alternative dispute resolution and can include arbitration, the Ombudsman or trade associations
- you and the trader try to settle the claim before going to court
- you try to save costs where possible
- the way the case is dealt with reflects how much money is involved, how important or complicated the problem is and the financial position of you and the trader
- the court hearing is straightforward, shorter and the outcome is more certain
- the judge's time isn't wasted.
Rules you and the trader must follow in the run up to court
There are rules you and the trader must follow to make sure that time and money are not wasted in the run-up to going to court. This is called the Practice Direction on pre-action conduct. It says you and the trader must:
- let each other see any relevant documents
- share the cost of expert evidence where possible
- write a letter before action which the trader must acknowledge.
Settling your claim out of court
You should always see if you can settle a dispute with a trader out of court, before you make a claim. There are qualified people who can look at your problem to try and help you and the trader sort it out without going to court. This is also known as alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
Write a letter before action
If you have tried alternative dispute resolution to settle out of court and it didn't work or if it isn't an option for you, you will need to write a letter before action before you take someone to court. You need to do this as part of pre-action conduct.