SCC Express; the next frontier in early neutral evaluation?

On the first anniversary of its launch, we take a closer look at one of the most recent dispute resolution services offered by the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce to see what it adds to the global alternative dispute resolution scene.

Background

The Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (“SCC”) launched SCC Express in May 2021.

Constituted by a set of rules (the “SCC Rules for Express Dispute Assessment”) SCC Express was developed and introduced by the SCC to fill what it perceived as a gap in the way disputes are resolved. It is intended to meet a growing demand for quick and efficient assessments of commercial disputes, with the SCC noting that an increased number of companies encounter issues that need to be investigated quickly and where there is a wish to explore an alternative to a full-length arbitration or court proceeding.

How SCC Express works

If the parties have agreed to use SCC Express, either on an ad hoc basis once a dispute has arisen or as part of a valid ADR condition in a contract, the SCC Rules for Express Dispute Assessment contain 11 articles which detail how matters are to proceed. In summary, the process involves the following steps.

The SCC Express proceedings start after a request is filed with the SCC requesting that the SCC shall appoint a neutral assessor to evaluate one, several, or all issues of fact or law relating to a dispute. The request shall include (i) details of the parties and their counsel, (ii) a summary of the dispute, (iii) a statement of the issue(s) to be assessed by the legal expert, the factual and legal basis relied upon, and any relief sought, (iv) a copy or description of any agreement between the parties to consent to an express dispute assessment, (v) comments on the law(s) or rules of law to be applied in the assessment, and (vi) proof of payment of the administrative fee of EUR 4,000. If the request is submitted by one of the parties to a dispute, SCC will contact the other party to provide an opportunity to respond to the request and, if needed, verify consent.

Once the SCC has verified the other party’s consent, the SCC will ask that the remainder of the fee, EUR 25,000, is paid.

The SCC shall seek to appoint the legal expert within 48 hours. The legal expert will be appointed by the SCC taking into consideration any proposals made by the parties, the nature and circumstances of the dispute, the applicable law, and the nationality and language of the parties. A party may challenge the legal expert if circumstances exist that give rise to justifiable doubts as to the expert’s impartiality or independence.

The process will be conducted as decided by the legal expert in consultation with the parties. The parties will receive a legal assessment of their dispute from the legal expert within three weeks.

Unless the parties have agreed otherwise, the proceedings are confidential, entailing that the parties, the legal expert or the SCC shall not disclose the existence of the assessment or the findings, or use any information learned in the context of the assessment, whether in a subsequent arbitration or otherwise.

The assessment will contain the legal expert’s findings, including a summary of the expert’s conclusions on the merits of the case. Unless the parties agree otherwise, the findings of the legal expert are not binding. Subject to the consent of the legal expert, the parties may also agree to appoint the legal expert as an arbitrator to confirm the findings in an arbitral award.

Comment and conclusions

Considering the aforementioned features, SCC Express can best be categorised as a form of “early neutral evaluation”, a type of ADR that involves a neutral (often a legal) expert examining the parties’ respective claims and issuing a non-binding assessment of the case (often to help promote settlement).

SCC Express sees a major arbitration institution join these offerings and it will be interesting to see to what extent it is an offering that engenders interest (in particular as its profile was recently boosted by a nomination at the 2022 GAR Award’s Innovation category). It is easy to see how SCC Express might be attractive, in particular for disputes involving parties with a mutual interest in maintaining a good business relationship and for which proceedings to an enforceable award or judgment might not be suitable nor necessary (at least not initially). By using SCC Express, the parties will get a cost-efficient assessment which may facilitate a solution to their dispute without having to engage in more costly and lengthy dispute resolution proceedings.

For further information on SCC Express, click here.