26 July 2018

On 9 July 2018, the Small Claims Tribunals (Amendment) Bill (“Bill”) was passed in Parliament. The Bill was introduced in Parliament on 17 May 2018. The Bill introduces amendments to expand the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Tribunals (“Tribunals”), improve the Tribunals’ processes and strengthen their powers to manage cases.

The following is a summary of the key changes.

Expanding the jurisdiction of the Tribunals

  • Raising the claims limit of the Tribunals: The monetary limits of claims filed at the Tribunals will be raised from S$10,000 to S$20,000 (by default) and from S$20,000 to S$30,000 (if all parties consent). The higher limits are broadly in line with similar tribunal limits in the UK, Australia and Canada. 
  • Inclusion of hire-purchase claims: The Tribunals will be able to hear hire-purchase claims under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (“CPFTA”). This is in addition to certain consumer claims under the CPFTA which are already being heard by the Tribunals, such as claims in relation to unfair practices. 
  • Extending the limitation period: The limitation period for bringing a claim in the Tribunals will be extended from one year to two years. This will give parties more time to negotiate and settle their disputes amicably, whilst ensuring that there remains enough time for them to file their claims should they not settle amicably.

Enhancement of current processes

  • Judge-led approach: The tribunal will be required to adopt a judge-led approach at the Adjudication Stage.
  • Other key enhancements to strengthen case management:
    • The Registrar or a tribunal will be empowered to order parties to attend mandatory mediation at the Community Mediation Centre or before any other person.
    • The Tribunals may award costs against parties where necessary.
    • The District Court will be given the discretion to remit a matter to the tribunal for reconsideration, or to order a re-hearing presided over by a different tribunal magistrate under certain circumstances.

In his Second Reading Speech, the Senior Minister of State for Law Mr Edwin Tong, explained that the amendments are part of the 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.

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the Parliament website www.parliament.gov.sg and the Ministry of Law website www.mlaw.gov.sg:

 

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