By: 5 December 2016
Access to Justice group asks for more time to consider whiplash consultation as National Accident Helpline warns of 2017 profit loss

The Access to Justice group has asked the Government for more time to answer the consultation on reform to the small claims PI sector.

The group, which met the Ministry of Justice last week, believes that the current deadline for the consultation – 6 January – does not give the group or other claimant PI firms and bodies enough time to respond properly to the Government’s proposals. It has told the Law Society Gazette that running the consultation over the Christmas season will limit people’s ability to submit full responses. Access to Justice has asked for a 12-week consultation.

Spokesperson for the Access to Justice group, Andrew Twambley told the Gazette: ‘These proposed reforms are highly contentious. The MoJ’s proposals threaten to sweep away consumers’ rights of redress under tort law that have been part of British life for centuries.

“Giving so short a timescale to the consultation is thoughtless at best, especially as the consultation is now far wider than the original proposal to ban soft tissue injury claims and increase the small claims limit.”

Access to Justice’s request comes after National Accident Helpline warned that it was anticipating a bigger reduction in its 2017 operating profits than previously thought.

The CMC said that it would see a £4 million drop in profit next year due to the proposed reforms as it invests to change the structure of the business.

In a note to the London Stock Exchange, the CMC’s parent company, the NAHL group, said that it had already started a trial using “different commercial and structural arrangements” to deal with a small proportion of enquiries which involved the Group playing more proactive role in the entire conduct and financing of a PI case.

“Whilst the measures proposed within the MoJ’s consultation are consistent with the Group’s expectations, discussions with panel law firms has led the Board to believe it would be prudent to accelerate investment in cases under these alternative commercial and structural arrangements,” it said.

“This will mean committing further investment during 2017 and will also result in a deferment of profit and cash flow.

“To position the Group for this different commercial and structural approach to funding and processing enquiries, the Board anticipates making an exceptional investment of £1.7m by the end of 2017 to ensure its brand positioning and processes are aligned to the requirements of the new regulatory environment. The Board intends £0.5m of this investment to be incurred in 2016, with the remainder during the course of 2017,” it added.