Commenting on the written statement made today [27 February 2020] by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland MP, Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO), said:
“It’s welcome that ministers have delayed the launch of the portal until 1 August, but this news is overdue. While the added time seems inadequate, it’s vital that the MoJ uses any breathing space effectively, especially as we still don’t have the official rules.
“Claimant and defendant sectors must work collectively to make sure we get this right after a series of false starts. Consumers need to have confidence that the new portal will do what ministers promised and work better for them than the existing system does.
“For example, in the troubling absence of a process of Alternative Dispute Resolution, when liability is disputed – as is often the case – injured people will either have to give up their claim altogether or go to court. The decision to scrap ADR directly contradicts earlier reassurances given by ministers* and regardless of what they say, it will incentivise insurers to deny liability and therefore cut claims costs.
“Ministers still have plenty of explaining to do, as the new plans don’t sound anything like the sort of slick, modern claims process we were promised, and at this stage there’s a high risk of consumer detriment.
“It’s welcome that ministers have heeded our warnings that injured children and protected parties would have faced almost insurmountable barriers to justice under the previous proposals. The changes set out will help address this but in future the needs of the most vulnerable people should be addressed first, not as an afterthought.
“We also need to know how consumers are going to be informed about these changes. Public awareness of them so far is zero, despite around 60,000 people a month making a personal injury claim following a traffic collision. Meanwhile launching a brand-new, consumer-facing service during the summer holidays feels a bit like burying bad news.
“Progress hitherto has been hampered by the MoJ being reluctant to engage positively enough with those in the sector who have hands-on experience of claims processes. This is despite our being clear all along that we want the portal to work and for consumers to have the best-possible experience in settling their claim quickly and with the minimum of fuss.
“There is an opportunity now for the MoJ to work with defendant and claimant representatives so we can deliver on the shared aim of doing the right thing for consumers.
“It shouldn’t be too late to have a proper ADR service, ensuring represented and unrepresented claimants are treated equally. The MoJ has also to consider both rehabilitation and credit hire as part of the overall customer journey as a matter of urgency.”
*Alternative Dispute resolution: Government commitments broken
1) Lord Keen’s letter to Bob Neill MP (chair of the Justice Committee) dated 12/3/19 - https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/Justice/correspondence/Lord-Keen-update-Civil-Liability-Act-2018.pdf
We have also initiated work with a group of experienced alternative dispute resolution providers to develop a new bespoke system of alternative dispute resolution to support unrepresented claimants using the new IT portal. The IT system will provide access to a low-cost paper-based system, paid for by the compensator, which will enable unrepresented claimants to seek an independent view from a qualified expert on key elements of their claim.
2) Lord Keen letter to Bob Neill dated 29/5/19 - https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/Justice/correspondence/29-May-2019-Lord-Keen-whiplash-consultation.pdf
For those claims where liability is wholly denied by the defendant compensator, the claimant will have the ability to access the bespoke alternative dispute resolution process. This is being created to support the new service and is wholly funded by the insurance sector. This will provide an independent view as to whether the compensator is right to wholly deny liability. The insurance sector has agreed to be bound by this process, and so if the ADR outcome is that liability should be in part accepted by the compensator then the claimant will then have their medical report paid for by that compensator at that point. If the independent review process does not find that the compensator should accept liability then the claimant could of course exercise their right to start court proceedings.