1 From 1 November 2019, parties can file a claim of up to $20,000 at the State Courts’ Small Claims Tribunals (SCT). The increased claim limit for claims filed at the SCT is one of the amendments made to the SCT Act to provide greater access to justice.
2 The details of the key amendments to the SCT Act that take effect from 1 November 2019 are as follows.
A) Increased Claim Limit
The default prescribed claim limit for small claims filed at the SCT is increased from $10,000 to $20,000. With the written consent of both parties, claims of up to $30,000 can be filed. This extended claim limit was previously set at $20,000.
B) Increased Limitation Period
Claims can now be filed within two years after the date on which the cause of action accrued. This applies to claims that accrued on or after 1 November 2018. The limitation period was previously one year from the date on which the cause of action accrued.
C) Unfair Practice Hire-Purchase Claims
Claims under a hire-purchase agreement can be heard at the SCT. Such claims must relate to an unfair practice as defined under section 4 and the Second Schedule of the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act.
D) Powers to Direct Parties to Attend Mediation
The Registrar of the SCT or a Tribunal may direct parties to attend mandatory mediation at the Community Mediation Centre, or before any person.
E) Powers of the District Court to Send SCT Cases for Rehearing
When an application to appeal against a decision, direction or order of the Tribunal Magistrate is filed (Leave to Appeal), the District Court may send the case back to the same Tribunal Magistrate for reconsideration or order the case to be reheard by a different Tribunal Magistrate, if the application for leave to appeal to the High Court is refused and it is manifestly unjust for the original decision to stand as it is.
F) Additional Reliefs
The SCT may order a tenant who has not paid rent, other than to pay the outstanding rent, to vacate the property. The SCT is also empowered to order a party to pay the other party's costs of the proceedings, including in a situation of an abuse of process (frivolous or vexatious claims, or deliberate delays to the proceedings).
3 More details are set out in the annexes enclosed.
Issued by: State Courts, Singapore
Date: 1 November 2019
Annex A: An overview of the Amendments to the Small Claims Tribunals Act
Annex B: Small Claims Tribunals Process Flowchart
Annex C: Factsheet
Annex D: Translation of Key Terms
For further information or clarification, please contact:
Tel: 6435 5088 / 9722 6139
Senior Assistant Director,
Tel: 6435 5179 / 9722 6139
|ABOUT THE SMALL CLAIMS TRIBUNALS
The Small Claims Tribunals (SCT) were established on 1 February 1985 to provide a quick and inexpensive forum for the resolution of small claims between consumers and suppliers.
The SCT has jurisdiction to hear specific types of claims of up to $20,000, or $30,000 with the written consent of both parties.
All claims are to be filed online via the Community Justice and Tribunals System (CJTS), which is the State Courts’ online filing and case management system for community justice and tribunal matters. Claimants can access the CJTS 24/7 to file their claims, check the status of their cases, choose their hearing dates or use the online negotiation and mediation modules to reach an amicable settlement with the other party, without going to the SCT. Before filing a claim, the claimant will have to take an online pre-filing assessment to ensure that he is ready to proceed.
1. Increased Claim Limit
The tribunals will hear claims not exceeding $20,000
. This limit can be extended to $30,000
with the written consent of both parties.
- A claim cannot be split or divided into multiple claims to bring it within the Tribunals’ jurisdiction
- If a claimant is filing a claim for one or more progress payments, e.g. a contractor who is paid in stages, the entire amount of the contract, and not just the amount of the progress payments, must be below the claim limit.
- There are no changes to the existing fees and rates. The fees for filing a claim are tiered with higher fees as the claim amount increases. The highest rate of fees applies to claims between $20,000 and $30,000.
2. Increased Limitation Period
|Claim / Counterclaim Amount
|Up to $5,000
|Between $5,000 and $10,000
|More than $10,000, up to $20,000
|| 1% of claim amount
|| 3% of claim amount
|More than $20,000, up to $30,000
*Consent of both parties required.
| 1% of claim amount
|| 3% of claim amount
Limitation period refers to the time within which a claim can be filed at the SCT. All claims must be filed within two years after the date on which the cause of action accrued, that is, the day the facts arose to enable a person to bring an action against another. Before the amendments, the limitation period was one year from the date on which the cause of action accrued.
- The amendments do not apply to claims that would have expired under the old Act. Only causes of action that accrued on or after 1 November 2018 (less than 1 year before the amendments) would benefit from the extended limitation period of 2 years.
3. Types of Claims that May be Filed at the SCT:
A vacuum cleaner was purchased on 1 October 2018. It broke down because of a defect on 15 November 2018. A claim for this would have to be filed by 15 November 2020, 2 years after 15 November 2018.
Moving services were provided on 1 October 2018. Payment for the services was to be made by 8 October 2018, but no payment was made. A claim for payment would have to be filed by 8 October 2019, 1 year after the earliest date the claim could have been filed (9 October 2018), because the claim expired before the amendments came into effect on 1 November 2019.
A landlord was supposed to return a security deposit under a tenancy within 14 days after the termination of the tenancy. The tenancy ended on 17 October 2018 but the deposit was not refunded by 31 October 2018. A claim for the deposit would have to be filed by 1 November 2020, 2 years after the earliest date the claim could have been filed (1 November 2018), because the claim had not expired on 1 November 2019.
Hire-purchase is a common way of purchasing consumer goods by way of instalments.
- There has to be a hire-purchase agreement between consumer and supplier.
- The claim must relate to an unfair practice as defined under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA).
4. More Case Management Options
|CONSUMER PROTECTION (FAIR TRADING) ACT (CHAPTER 52A)
Examples of unfair practices:
- Representing that goods or services are of a particular standard, quality, grade, style, model, origin, weight, volume, length, capacity or method of manufacture (as the case may be) if they are not.
- Representing that goods are new or unused if they are not or if they have deteriorated or been altered, reconditioned or reclaimed.
- Representing that goods or services are available or are available for a particular reason, for a particular price, in particular quantities or at a particular time if the supplier knows or can reasonably be expected to know it is not so, unless the representation clearly states any limitation.
Powers to direct parties to attend mediation at Community Mediation Centre
The Registrar or a Tribunal may direct parties to attend mandatory mediation at the Community Mediation Centre, or before any person. This provides increased flexibility for claims to be resolved in a less acrimonious way and is in line with the SCT’s objective to promote and facilitate the early settlement of disputes.
Powers of District Court to send SCT cases for reconsideration or rehearing
When an application to appeal against a decision, direction or order of the SCT is filed (Leave to Appeal), the District Court hearing the application for Leave to Appeal may send the case to the same Tribunal Magistrate for reconsideration or order the case to be re-heard by a different Tribunal Magistrate. This will only be allowed in limited cases where it is manifestly unjust to allow the original decision to stand.
5. Common Types of Tribunal Orders
- Applications for Leave to Appeal are only granted by a District Court when it concerns an issue of law or jurisdiction
- As part of the amendments to the SCTA, Referees of the Tribunals are renamed “Tribunal Magistrates” to better reflect their adjudication and case management roles
TRANSLATION OF KEY TERMS