Most national newspapers publishers have signed up to a new voluntary system which aims to reduce the cost of settling libel disputes.
The arbitration scheme is being run by press regulator IPSO and was one of the key recommendations set out in the Leveson report of November 2012.
But not all IPSO member publishers have signed up to the scheme. And those that have are able to choose which libel claims they wish to take to arbitration.
Claims cost £300 plus VAT if the matter can be decided by a preliminary ruling. Claimants must pay £2,800 plus VAT to take the claim to a full hearing, plus their own legal costs and further fees if necessary to cover oral hearings.
Claimants get their fees back if they are successful, but only a “small amount” of their own legal fees. If a claim is struck out, claimants may have to pay a proportion of the publishers’ costs – which are capped at £6,300 plus VAT.
Currently libel and privacy claimants often bring cases against publishers on a no win, no fee basis – which means they face no financial risk if they lose.
The scheme is not being operated in Scotland, because of the differing legal system. And only one local newspaper is taking part, the Trinity Mirror-owned Liverpool Echo.
Local newspaper publishers have previously voiced opposition to arbitration on the grounds that they fear it would open them up to opportunistic legal claims.
The scheme caps possible damages payouts at £50,000 (court-imposed libel and privacy payouts can exceed £200,000 in the UK).
The scheme is being operated by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution.
Most national newspaper titles regulated by IPSO are taking part in the scheme. The Daily Mail is (but not not Mail Online).
The scheme covers claims for privacy, defamation and harassment.
IPSO chairman Sir Alan Moses said: “Arbitration is not just about reducing costs and delays associated with litigation, it is about widening access to justice for members of the public.
“They need a means whereby they can vindicate their legal rights without going to court. At the core of IPSO’s work is our support for claimants who feel wronged by the press and this pilot is part of this provision. We look forward to working with CEDR in delivering this important service.”
Publications taking part in the scheme are as follows: “The Daily Mirror, The Sunday Mirror, The Sunday People, The Liverpool Echo, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, The Weekly Telegraph, Brides, Conde Nast Johansens, Conde Nast Traveller, Glamour, GQ, GQ Style, House and Garden, Love, Tatler, The World of Interiors, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Wired, The Daily Express, The Daily Star, New!, OK!, Star Magazine, The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Times Literary Supplement, Daily, Mail, Mail on Sunday, Metro and the Press Association.”