Before you take action...
Think carefully before taking a customer to court. Remember to send them a Letter before action first, to give your customer a final chance to settle their debt.
Even if the court action is successful, there is no guarantee that the debt will be recovered. It may not be possible to enforce the judgment against the customer, particularly if they have no assets. There may be other debts outstanding against the customer, which reduces the likelihood of the debt in question being paid.
Moreover, significant sums may be incurred in pursuing the case. The costs may escalate if the customer disputes the claim.
In England and Wales
Issuing a claim online
To be able to issue a claim online, using the government's Money Claim Online service the claim must be:
for a fixed amount less than £100,000
against no more than two people or organisations
sent to an address in England or Wales with a valid postcode
The court will usually issue, print and send the claim form to the defendant on the day that it is submitted online; you must pay court fees for online claims by credit card or debit card.
Claims started online are always issued in the name of 'Northampton County Court', where all such claims are processed. However, it will not be necessary to go to Northampton to attend a hearing – if the claim progresses, it will be transferred automatically to either the claimant’s or defendant’s local County Court to be heard.
Issuing a claim on paper
Use the correct form. You must complete Form N1 with your details and the person/organisation who owes you the sum being claimed. The form includes space for details of the claim.
If the claim is based on a written agreement (eg an agreement to purchase goods or services) attach a copy of the agreement to Form N1.
Don’t forget interest. You can claim interest on your claim, make sure this is included on Form N1. For more information, read Calculating interest on commercial debts.
Send the completed Form N1 to: County Court Money Claims Centre, PO Box 527, Salford M5 0BY. You will also need to pay court fees; this is lower if you use Money Claim Online.
The court will stamp the claim form and in most cases serve it on the defendant by sending it to the defendant by first class post.
The claim must be dealt with at either the court where Form N1 was sent or will be automatically transferred to the nearest County Court of the person who owes you the money if:
the case is defended
is for a fixed amount, and
the person who owes the money is an individual, not a company
In other cases, either party can ask for the case to be transferred to another County Court.
Depending on the complexity of the case, it will either be allocated to the Small claims track, Fast track or the Multi track. For more information about this process you can read our legal guide, Small claims court.
In Scotland a money claim for up to £10,000 is brought in the Sheriff Court. There are two ways to bring a claim in the Sheriff Court:
Through the simple procedure - where your case is worth less than £5,000 and isn’t complicated. A claim can usually be made in the Sheriff Court closest to you. It may also be made in the Sheriff Court in the area where the trader has its business (but this may not be convenient if it is somewhere else in the UK).
Through the ordinary cause - where your case is worth more than £5,000 and is complicated.
For more information, read Small claims court in Scotland.
To bring a claim by simple procedure, Form 3A needs to be completed and given to the sheriff clerk along with the court fee. The sheriff clerk will check your form and register your claim.
Where the claim is not simply for money, the value of the claim must be within the £5,000 financial limit to be brought via the simple procedure.
To bring a claim by ordinary cause, it is advisable to seek legal advice in the form of a solicitor.
In either case, fees must be paid - see the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service website for the full range of up to date fees.