The new LCIA Rules 2020 (2020 Rules) came into force on 1 October 2020 and will apply to all LCIA arbitrations commencing from that date onwards. The amendments are an attempt to streamline and modernise the LCIA Rules. This article presents the key changes introduced by the new Rules and their likely impact on the parties involved.
An important amendment is making explicit the tribunal’s power to order early dismissal of claims or defences which are manifestly without merit, inadmissible or outside the tribunal’s jurisdiction (Article 22.1(viii)). This allows for proceedings to be dismissed at an early stage where it is clear that the claim or defence is unmeritorious. This change brings the LCIA Rules in line with other international arbitration rules (e.g. SIAC and HKIAC Rules).
This addresses a common criticism of arbitration as compared to litigation, and should make the 2020 Rules more attractive to parties concerned with saving time and costs.
Consolidation of multiple proceedings and composite requests
The 2020 Rules widen the powers of the tribunal and the LCIA Court to consolidate multiple arbitrations commenced under the same arbitration agreement or any compatible agreement and arising out of the same transaction or series of related transactions (Article 22.7). This expands the circumstances in which proceedings can be consolidated: the parties do not need to be the same in each dispute.
Parties who want to commence multiple arbitrations, whether against one or more parties and under one or more arbitration agreements, are now able to serve a single Composite Request (Article 1.2). The arbitrations will still proceed separately, unless they are later consolidated.
Tightening the length of proceedings
The 2020 Rules have tightened the timelines for arbitrations. The LCIA Court has 28 days rather than 35 days to appoint the tribunal (Article 5.6) and the tribunal is required to endeavour to release the final award within 3 months (Article 15.10).
Modernisation of LCIA Rules
As a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the 2020 Rules address virtual and hybrid hearings in detail (Article 19.2) compared to the 2014 Rules. They also make electronic communication the new default (Article 4). Taken together with the new provisions allowing awards to be signed electronically (Article 26.2), the 2020 Rules are a welcome modernisation. However, care should be exercised to ensure that use of electronic signatures and other technologies is permitted in the jurisdictions of enforcement to avoid any risk of later challenge.
As the 2020 Rules have only recently come into force, it remains to be seen how they will be applied in practice by the LCIA Court and tribunals. Overall, however, the changes constitute a pragmatic and modern update, which should help make LCIA proceedings more efficient, expeditious whilst also preserving fairness and due process.
With thanks to Aman Tandon, trainee, for his contribution to this article.
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