Strengthening Access to Justice at the Small Claims Tribunals
1. The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) has submitted the Small Claims Tribunals (Amendment) Bill for First Reading in Parliament today.
2. The proposed changes in the Bill seek to strengthen access to justice by expanding the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT) and enhancing their processes, so as to allow more claims to be heard in a quicker and more cost-effective manner.
Key features of the Small Claims Tribunals (Amendment) Bill
3. The key features of the Bill are as follow:
(A) Expanding the jurisdiction of the SCT
(i) Raising the claims limit of the SCT
- The claims limit of the SCT will be raised from $10,000 to $20,000 (by default) and from $20,000 to $30,000 (if all parties consent). The higher limits are broadly in line with similar tribunal limits in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.
(ii) Inclusion of hire-purchase claims
- Hire-purchase claims under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act may now be heard by the SCT. This will enable Singaporeans to resolve hire-purchase claims under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act quickly and cost effectively.
(iii) Extending the limitation period
- The limitation period for bringing a claim in the SCT will be extended from 1 year to 2 years. This will provide more time for parties to explore methods to resolve their dispute before bringing the claim before SCT.
(B) Enhancement of current processes
(iv) Judge-led approach
- The SCT tribunal magistrates can exercise greater control over proceedings and focus the attention of parties on key issues, leading to costs and time savings.
(v) Other key enhancements to strengthen case management
- The SCT are empowered to order parties to attend mandatory mediation at the Community Mediation Centre or before any other person.
- The SCT may award costs against parties where necessary.
- The District Court is given the discretion to remit a matter to the SCT for reconsideration, or to order a re-hearing presided over by a different Tribunal Magistrate under certain circumstances.
4. A public consultation on the proposed amendments was conducted by Ministry of Law from 21 December 2017 to 11 January 2018. The key amendments above were finalised after the public consultation and closed consultation with key stakeholders, including the State Courts and the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
5. The SCT are part of the State Courts of Singapore, and were established on 1 February 1985 to provide a quick and inexpensive forum for the resolution of small claims between consumers and suppliers.