The Independent Press Standards Organisation’s (IPSO’s) compulsory arbitration scheme has now launched, meaning that anyone who has a claim against a participating newspaper can arbitrate their claim at a maximum service fee of £100 (not taking into account any legal fees).
The compulsory scheme extends the voluntary scheme which still remains in place. It means that a potential claimant who would otherwise bring court proceedings in a media law dispute can now require arbitration of their claim and participating newspapers cannot refuse. The type of claims envisaged by the scheme include claims for defamation, malicious falsehood, breach of confidence and misuse of private information, harassment and breach of data protection laws.
The arbitration process means that an expert media law barrister will act as an independent and impartial arbitrator who will review the evidence and make a ruling on the claim. The new scheme allows an arbitrator to make an award of compensation of up to £60,000, which is an increase on the £50,000 cap for IPSO’s voluntary scheme. The scheme also enables an arbitrator to make a ruling that one party should pay another’s legal costs, capped at £10,000 for represented parties or £1,000 for litigants in person, albeit the arbitrator has discretion to make no order as to costs where that is fair and reasonable.
The objective of the scheme is to enable a quick, cost-effective, fair and impartial procedure for resolving genuine media law disputes. The scheme rules direct the arbitrator to act inquisitorially and with regard to the proactive case management of claims, including by providing a flexible process tailored to each individual claim. The rules also enable an arbitrator to strike out vexatious or frivolous schemes which reflects the court’s approach to establishing that serious harm has occurred in defamation claims following the case of Jameel v Dow Jones 2005 and the introduction of the Defamation Act 2013.
It is anticipated that some claims may be unsuitable for the scheme, for example if they give rise to a novel or complex point of law or it is in the public interest to have a determination by the court. The arbitrator has the discretion to direct such claims be resolved through alternative routes.
The IPSO has appointed an arbitration company to provide the scheme’s services and to monitor and report on its effectiveness. It will be interesting to see the extent to which claimants use the new compulsory scheme and how decisions flowing from the scheme develop and interact with the court’s attitude to media law disputes. For now, it seems that claimants who previously were dissuaded by the costly and time consuming court proceedings may have a more streamlined and cost-effective route to justice against newspapers.
The full list of newspapers covered be the compulsory scheme is: Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Weekly Telegraph, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Metro, Times, Sunday Times, The Sun, The Sun on Sunday, Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star, Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, and Sunday People.
The Press Association, Conde Nast and a number of magazines such as Vogue, GQ and Tatler remain members of the voluntary scheme.