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25 February 2021
The new London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) Rules 2020 came into force on 1 October 2020 and apply to all LCIA arbitrations commencing from that date onwards. The amendments are an attempt to streamline and modernise the LCIA rules. This article discusses the key changes introduced by the new rules and their likely impact on parties.
An important amendment has given LCIA tribunals the explicit power to order early dismissal of claims or defences which are manifestly without merit, inadmissible or outside their 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 those of other international arbitration centres (eg, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre).
This addresses a common criticism of arbitration compared with litigation and should make the LCIA Rules 2020 more attractive to parties concerned with saving time and costs.
The LCIA Rules 2020 broaden the powers of tribunals 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 need not be the same in each dispute.
Parties which want to commence multiple arbitrations, whether against one or more parties and under one or more arbitration agreements, can now serve a single composite request (Article 1.2). The arbitrations will still proceed separately, unless they are later consolidated.
The LCIA Rules 2020 have tightened the arbitration timeline. The LCIA Court now has 28 days rather than 35 to appoint the tribunal (Article 5.6) and the tribunal must endeavour to release the final award within three months (Article 15.10).
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the LCIA Rules 2020 address virtual and hybrid hearings in detail (Article 19.2) compared with the 2014 rules. They also make e-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 e-signatures and other technologies is permitted in the jurisdictions of enforcement to avoid any risk of a later challenge.
As the LCIA Rules 2020 are relatively new, it remains to be seen how they will be applied in practice by the LCIA Court and tribunals. However, overall, the changes constitute a pragmatic and modern update, which should help to make LCIA proceedings more efficient and expeditious whilst also preserving fairness and due process.
For further information on this topic please contact Sherina Petit or Nimoy Kher at Norton Rose Fulbright by telephone (44 20 7283 6000) or email (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). The Norton Rose Fulbright website can be accessed at www.nortonrosefulbright.com.
Aman Tandon and Giulia Barbone, trainees, assisted in the preparation of this article.
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