28 November 2019
The Small Claims Tribunals Act (“Act”) has been amended with effect from 1 November 2019. Broadly, the changes to the Act serve to expand the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Tribunals (“Tribunals”) and enhance the processes in the Tribunals.
Some of the key amendments to the Act are set out below.
Expansion of jurisdiction of Tribunals
- Increased claims limit: The monetary limits of claims filed at the Tribunals has been raised from S$10,000 to S$20,000 (by default), and from S$20,000 to S$30,000 (if all parties consent).
- Unfair practice hire-purchase claims: Claims under a hire-purchase agreement can now be heard at the Tribunals. Such claims must relate to an unfair practice as defined under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act.
- Extended limitation period: Claims can now be filed within two years after the date on which the cause of action accrued. This applies to claims that accrued on or after 1 November 2018. The limitation period was previously one year from the date on which the cause of action accrued.
Enhancement of processes
- Judge-led approach: The Tribunal will be required to adopt a judge-led approach at the Adjudication Stage
- Mandatory mediation: The Registrar for the Tribunals or a Tribunal may direct parties to attend mandatory mediation at the Community Mediation Centre, or before any person.
- Power to order costs: The Tribunals may order a party to pay the other party’s costs of the proceedings, including in a situation of an abuse of process (frivolous or vexatious claims, or deliberate delays to the proceedings).
- Powers of District Court to send case for rehearing: When an application to appeal against a decision, direction or order of the Tribunal magistrate is filed, the District Court may send the case back to the same Tribunal magistrate for reconsideration or order the case to be reheard by a different Tribunal magistrate, if the application for leave to appeal to the High Court is refused and it is manifestly unjust for the original decision to stand as it is.
The Small Claims Tribunals (Amendment) Bill was introduced in Parliament on 17 May 2018 and was passed on 9 July 2018. In his second reading speech on 9 July 2018, the Senior Minister of State for Law Mr Edwin Tong explained that the amendments are part of continuous efforts to improve the Tribunals’ processes and enhance access to justice. They will enable the Tribunals to continue to fulfil their mission of providing an efficient, effective and at the same time inexpensive avenue for the resolution of small claims.
- Media release: Small Claims Tribunals to accept higher value claims from 1 November 2019
- Small Claims Tribunals (Amendment) Act 2018