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International Chamber of Commerce introduces new ‘fast-track’ arbitration rules

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) introduced new rules on 1 March 2017, allowing parties to arbitration to adopt a ‘fast-track’ procedure for the resolution of their disputes, as Malcolm Simpson explains.

Arbitration has already firmly established itself as a popular alternative to court litigation for a variety of reasons including the (perceived) time and cost savings. By introducing a set of Expedited Procedure Rules, the ICC is one of a number of arbitral institutions to offer parties the flexibility to make the process more efficient, if it suits their case.  Key features are:

  • the rules will automatically apply to arbitrations below US$ 2 million
  • parties can opt to apply the rules to cases involving higher amounts
  • parties can opt out altogether
  • the ICC Court may appoint a sole arbitrator (even if the parties’ arbitration agreement contains a contrary provision)
  • the usual Terms of Reference provisions are dispensed with
  • no new claims are to be made after constitution of the arbitral tribunal (unless authorised)
  • the case management conference (CMC) is to take place no later than 15 days after the tribunal receives the file
  • the tribunal has the discretion to adopt the procedural measures it considers appropriate (for example, it may limit the number, length and scope of written submissions/witness evidence or decide not to allow requests for document production – after consulting the parties)
  • the tribunal may decide the dispute solely based on the parties’ documents, with no oral hearing or witness/expert examination – again, after consulting the parties
  • hearings, if held at all, may take place by videoconference/telephone
  • final awards are to be provided within six months of the CMC
  • there will be a new scale providing for significantly reduced fees
  • the expedited procedure does not apply to arbitration agreements concluded before 1 March 2017.

Other amendments to the ICC Rules generally, outside of the expedited procedure, are aimed at streamlining and increasing transparency. These include:

  • a time limit of one month (from two months) for establishing Terms of Reference
  • parties being able to ask the ICC Court to provide reasons for its decisions (without the Court having to seek all parties’ consent).

Interestingly, this trend to promote and facilitate ever more efficient and cost-effective dispute resolution is not confined to arbitration. The English civil litigation system is undergoing a period of major reform and a significant feature of that is the unprecedented drive towards offering more varied, flexible and cost-effective dispute resolution mechanisms.  For more details, see our recent briefings Shorter and Flexible Trials pilot schemes extended and Quicker High Court trials and contract interpretation: $68m oil industry dispute resolved in a day.

Parties should keep the new rules in mind when entering into contractual arrangements going forwards.

Should you have any queries arising from this briefing, require any assistance in relation to the drafting of appropriate dispute resolution clauses, or wish to discuss which procedures might be suitable in relation to a particular dispute, please contact Malcolm Simpson or any member of Walker Morris’ Commercial Dispute Resolution team.

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