Money Claim Online (MCOL) is a new service and it was established to offer a practical and straightforward way to commence a county court claim for a specified amount of money. It is important that the Money Claim Online (MCOL) process is carried out correctly otherwise it could result in a costly exercise both in terms of time and money.
Incorrect preparation could also impact on the outcome of the claim.
Before starting the Money Claim Online (MCOL) process of claiming, you must firstly understand what is classed as being a dispute. Disputes are disagreements that you may have with another person, organisation or business and the dispute can be for a number of reasons.
It must be noted however that not all disputes are covered by Money Claim Online.
Pre Action Conduct
Before you can begin any type of claim, the court will expect the claimant and defendant to communicate in writing and try to reach an early settlement which is agreeable to both parties. These communications are often referred to as pre-action protocols and they involve the claimant and defendant trying to settle the issue without involving the courts.
Usually you will need to draft a letter of claim to the defendant providing detailed information about the dispute and offering them the opportunity to respond.
If, following the pre action processes either party refuses to cooperate or you are still unhappy with the response provided by the defendant you can make a court claim. However, if you do decide to proceed to court you must ensure that any pre action correspondence complies with the Ministry of Justice Practice Direction for pre-action conduct. Failure to do this could result in your claim being invalidated.
To make a claim online;
- The value of the claim must be less than £100,000
- The claim is against no more than two defendants
- Served to a defendant with an address in England and Wales
To make a claim online the claimant must have;
- A valid credit or debit card to make payment for the court fees
- An address in the UK
- An email address
- Regular access to a computer and the Internet
Once a claim has started, the claimant may be asked to prove the claim in court so it is important that the claimant has a good understanding of the legal basis for making the claim. It may save a lot of time and money in the long run if you seek suitable legal advice to see if it is worth making a claim and what you need to do to sufficiently prepare.
Issuing a Money Claim Online
To successfully make a claim there are eight steps that claimants have to complete. Any claim which you issue through the Money Claim website will display the details of the individual that you are claiming against as you proceed. Once complete, you will have the opportunity to review a draft version before it is submitted to ensure that the details that you have provided are accurate.
Claims are issued through an automated system so once the issue fee has been paid, the claim cannot be amended or cancelled. In addition, claims are not checked by court staff before they are issued and the court cannot be held accountable if the claim contains incorrect information. If you do wish to make any amendments after the claim has been issued you will need to do so through a District Judge or after seeking permission from a court appointed legal advisor which can result in additional fees.
Stage 1 Guidance
The first stage in the claim process provides a detailed information section which guides the claimant through the website and offers links to further guidance which should be read carefully before beginning any claim. Claimants must confirm that they have read the terms before they proceed to issue the claim so it is very important that the claimant reviews the available material provided for guidance. Court fees will also be provided so you know exactly how much it will cost to issue the claim.
Stage 2 Claimant Details
As the individual completing the form you are the claimant if you register as an individual or organisation. If a solicitor acts on your behalf you will still be the claimant.
Stage 3 Correspondence Address
Individuals or organisations completing the form need to include their usual address for any correspondence.
Stage 4 Defendant
This is the person that you are making the claim against, usually the individual who has committed a wrong or owes you money. In this section of the claim form you will be asked to state the number of defendants in the case.
The Money Claim Online process allows for up to two defendants to be listed. If the claimant would like to initiate proceedings against more than two individuals they must speak to the County Court Money Claim Centre for further instruction. Claims cannot be brought against a government department using the Money Claim website.
When providing information about the defendant you should ensure that the details are accurate and complete using the correct spellings of their name. If the defendant is an organisation it is important that you find out the full registered name and address of the company.
The defendants address is known as the service address. If a defendant is an individual, the claim must be issued to their last known residential address. If the defendant is an individual using a trading name, the claim should be served on their last known residential address or business address. If the defendant is a business, the claim can be served at their registered address or any other address that you have on correspondence.
Stage 5 Particulars of Claim
This is perhaps the most important stage in the process and it is your opportunity to explain what money you are owed and why. To complete this section the claimant will need to draft a Particulars of Claim which is a statement outlining the reason why you are claiming and the amount.
The Particulars of Claim is restricted to 1080 characters so you must include all of the information that you need clearly and concisely. If the claimant does not have enough space to explain the claim, they will need to write a more detailed particulars of claim to the defendant.
Once you have drafted the particulars of claim you will be able to state whether you claim interest. Under the County Court Act interest is charged at a rate of 8% annually.
Stage 6 Summary and Statement of Truth
This is the final opportunity to carefully check the information that you have provided and ensure that is factually correct. Read through the summary carefully and remember that any amendments made after the claim has been issued can be costly and time consuming. If you do not wish your claim to be issued immediately, you can save the form as a draft claim for a period of 28 days. If the claim is not issued within 28 days it will be deleted from the system.
Once the details of the claim are complete you just need to pay the court fee to issue the claim using a valid debit or credit card. Fees payable will depend on the amount that you are claiming and these fees will automatically be added to the amount that you are claiming from the defendant.
Once submitted, the claim will be issued within 2 working days from the date that you submit the claim. The court will then send a detailed claim pack to the defendant after issue of the claim, allowing five days from the date of issue for the claim to be served. The defendant has 14 days from the date of service to file a response.
The defendant is obliged to respond to the claim in writing either making use of the forms which accompany the claim pack or through the Money Claim Online website. If the defendant submits their response electronically you will be able to view this through your login page. If however, the defendant opts to complete and return a hard copy, you will be sent a copy in the post.
There are multiple ways in which a defendant can provide their response;
- Acknowledgement of Service – States that the defendant has the intention of filing a defence, part admission or they contest the claim in its entirety
- States Paid Defence – Defendant states that the amount being claimed has already been paid
- Full defence – The defendant would like to defend the claim in full
- Counterclaim – Defendant wishes to dispute the full amount of the claim and files a claim against the claimant.
- Part Admission – The defendant wishes to dispute part of the claim
- Full Admission – The defendant admits that they owe the money and offers a settlement figure to repay the money
- No response – The defendant does not file a response within the designated timeframe
- Payment – The defendant decides to send you the money to settle the claim in full
Claimants must direct the court on how they wish to proceed once a response has been filed by the defendant. If you do not instruct the court, the claim will be suspended and you will be required to apply to the District Judge to reinstate the claim.
The Money Claim Online Website is designed to making a court claim easier and quicker for claimants. However in doing so it is important that you follow the guidance and complete the information accurately and to the best of your knowledge.
You may find it beneficial to consult a solicitor to draft the Particulars of Claim to ensure that it is written correctly and your money claim stands the best chance of success.
About the author:
This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.