IPSO announces low-cost Leveson-style arbitration scheme

Laura Rutkowski

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has announced the details of its low-cost arbitration scheme, featuring much-reduced costs for claimants.

The scheme, commencing today, offers low-cost access to justice as envisaged in the Leveson Report and replaces the pilot scheme IPSO has run for a year.

The cost for claimants to use the scheme has been cut from £300 to a maximum of £100, split into a £50 fee at the start and a further £50 if the case goes to final ruling. Publishers will fund the rest of the administration cost and all of the arbitrators’ fees.

Matt Tee, IPSO Chief Executive, said: “A key theme of the Leveson Report was access to justice for those that can’t afford to go to court. The new IPSO scheme means that anyone can bring a claim against a newspaper for a fee of £50. Access to low-cost arbitration is an important part of the service we offer to the public and I’m pleased that we have been able to reduce the up-front cost of arbitration for a claimant to just £50.

“In fact, even if the hearing proceeds to final ruling, the maximum it will cost a member of the public is £100, thus making the IPSO scheme fully Leveson-compliant. The culture select committee called for IPSO to offer low cost arbitration in its response to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) consultation on Section 40. We have listened and acted,” he added.

Responding to this announcement, Damian Collins MP, Chair of the DCMS Committee, commented: “I welcome IPSO's decision to launch a new arbitration scheme…One of the most important recommendations made in the Leveson Report was that there should be an affordable and accessible system of arbitration when people want to make complaints against the press.

“This was also called for earlier this year by the DCMS Committee, in our response to the government's consultation of press regulation. There the committee said, ‘we believe the costs of the pilot scheme should be reduced to meet the vision of low cost arbitration set out by Leveson, where complainants would face minimal fees for participation in the scheme.’ I believe that the announcement today is a significant step forward in making this a reality.”

Other amendments to the IPSO scheme include:

• New protections for members of the public representing themselves, to ensure they are protected from having to pay large legal costs to publishers, even if they lose a case

• Increased ability for claimants to recover their own legal costs from publishers, with safeguards to ensure that neither side incurs unreasonable costs

• A new power for arbitrators to require publishers to pay aggravated damages to a successful claimant, within the overall cap of £50,000

• New limits on the circumstances in which a publisher can recover fees and costs from a claimant.

The IPSO arbitration scheme is a method of dispute resolution used to provide a cost-effective, straightforward and quick method of solving legal disputes between claimants and participating members of the press, including claims for libel, slander, misuse of private information, breach of confidence, malicious falsehood, harassment and data protection.

It is a voluntary scheme in which both parties agree to binding arbitration overseen by specialist barristers. It is managed by Europe’s largest independent Alternative Dispute Resolution provider, CEDR.

Publications taking part include all of IPSO’s national newspaper members, including the Daily Mirror, The Sun, The Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Daily Star and The Daily Telegraph, as well as the Press Association and Condé Nast Britain. The scheme is open to all IPSO members to join.

Arbitration does not replace the regulatory complaints handling service operated by IPSO under the Editors’ Code of Practice, which remains free and available to all, with no need to seek legal or specialist advice. It will continue to run as a separate service.

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