Before you blow a fuse, new rules laid before Parliament today and explained below will not generally affect cases listed for trial before 6 March 2017.
When a civil claim is listed for trial, you the claimant will have to pay a hearing fee (which you will probably get back from your opponent if you win). But we are talking about potentially big money. For a small claim, it will range from £25 to £335, depending on how much you are after. On a fast track claim it will be £545 and for a multi-track claim ,,,,,,,,(wait for it)......£1,090. The fee will probably be payable quite a while before the actual trial takes place. However, to encourage settlements, there is a refund system. The earlier any settlement takes place, the stronger the chance that you will qualify for a refund. On a small claim, for example, you will get back the entire hearing fee if you have notified the court in writing at least one clear week before the final hearing that there has been a settlement or that you are abandoning the claim.
Forget this scheme for the future. Under the new scheme coming in next year, you will be able to hold on before paying the hearing fee until four weeks before the trial but the refund system will be abolished. This means that if you have brought a small claim and settled rather late, you will be worse off under the new scheme. There is an exception in all cases where the trial date is not notified earlier than five weeks or less beforehand. Then, the hearing fee will only have to be paid within one week of notification of the date.