Law guide: Complaints and disputes

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Making a small claim

In Scotland, the small claims procedure is different. A small claim in the sheriff court is meant to provide a simple, quick, informal and inexpensive way to settle claims worth up to £750. It allows you to take legal action without having to use a solicitor. It is a do-it-yourself procedure although a friend or adviser can act as your representative. Legal aid is not available for a solicitor to represent you.

A special feature of the small claims procedure is that in most cases there is a limit to the legal expenses which can be awarded. In particular, if the value of the claim is £200 or less, and the case has been defended, there will normally be no award of expenses. In this situation, any court fees paid will not be recoverable.

The most common types of claim are:-

  • Compensation for faulty services, for example, by builders, dry cleaners, garages
  • Compensation for faulty goods, for example, consumer goods like televisions or washing machines which go wrong
  • Disputes between landlords and tenants, for instance, rent arrears or compensation for not doing repairs
  • Wages owed or money in lieu of notice.
  • If your claim is within the financial limits but legally complicated you may have to use different court procedures for which a solicitor will normally be required.

Alternative dispute resolution should be pursued wherever possible. Generally, the courts will not look favourably upon cases where the pursuer has not attempted to resolve the dispute by all other reasonable means before going to court. Court action should be a last resort.

How to make a claim

There is no equivalent of 'Money Claim Online' in Scotland. When trying to settle a claim before going to court in Scotland, you should always send letters by recorded delivery post, and you should state clearly that if the matter is not resolved informally, you will take court action.

There are several things you might wish to consider before deciding to start court proceedings, such as:

  • Is the person or company likely to be able to pay?
  • Do you have a note of their correct name and their present address?
  • Are they bankrupt or insolvent?
  • Do they have any money or other items of value?
  • If a company, has it ceased trading?
  • Are you raising the action against the correct party?
  • Can you afford to go to court?
  • Can you afford the time to prepare your case for the court hearing if the claim is defended?
  • Can you afford to pay the cost of having any order made in your favour enforced if it is not complied with?

You should also consider whether you will be able to prove your claim. Considering the following questions may help you to decide this:

  • Do you still have any faulty goods?
  • Is there a written agreement you can produce?
  • Are there any witnesses who would be able to come to court to support your claim?
  • Do you have any receipts for payment?
  • Is there any photographic evidence available which might assist your case?

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