Court costs hit business

BUSINESSES are facing a three-fold increase in court costs after new court fees came into effect on January 1.

The cost of filing any action in WA courts went up for both individuals and businesses. But fees only doubled for individuals.

The cost of a business filing a writ in the Supreme Court has gone from $265.20 to $800.

And the courts are also charging for some things they never used to before.

The Supreme Court is running a new daily hearing fee of $800 for businesses and $400 for individuals. That fee must be paid by a plaintiff before the trial commences.

A fee of $210 has been introduced for businesses filing interlocutory matters. That fee is payable on a daily basis if the interlocutory hearing extends beyond the first day.

However, small businesses, not-for-profit organisations and people placing personal injury claims will be charged the individual’s court fee rate.

Besides greatly increasing the cost of court actions, the new fees have posed logistical problems for lawyers.

There are fears outside law clerks will be forced to either carry large sums of cash or a bundle of cheques to pay for a range of different services.

Statistic show that, in 1999-2000, the cost of providing the courts and infrastructure in the civil jurisdiction of the Supreme Court amounted to $14.35 million and the revenue collected from fees and charges was $1.6 million.

In the District Court the cost of the operation in the civil jurisdiction was $8.4 million, with a revenue collection of $1.89 million.

It is understood the new costs imposed on plaintiffs will not do much to alleviate this.

Law Society of WA president Clare Thompson said the new fee structure would put the cost of running an action up “astronomically”.

“It will be at least an extra $5,000 to $6,000 to run an action,” Ms Thompson said.

However, she admitted most businesses could claim a tax deduction for their court fees.

“But I think it is a real fallacy that the Government is implying that businesses use the court capriciously.”

WA Attorney General Jim McGinty said the Law Reform Commission chaired by Wayne Martin QC had found people using the courts for civil remedies should bear more of the costs.

“We accepted also that there needed to be a different rate for corporations and individuals,” Mr McGinty said.

He rated WA’s new court fee structure as “average” when compared with other States.

“Our court fees are lower than those in the Federal Court which is the alternative jurisdiction for Western Australians,” Mr McGinty said.

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