What is an Acknowledgement of Service and when is it needed?
Once a Claimant has issued their Claim Form and commenced court proceedings, the Defendant/s only have a short period of time within which to respond.
The Civil Procedure Rules (“the CPR”) set out the specific steps that must be taken by litigating parties during the course of civil proceedings. Though some of these rules are specific to certain types of proceedings, the significance of CPR Part 10 is synonymous with all claims, irrespective of their value or complexity.
An Acknowledgement of Service (“AoS”) is a court form that the Defendant needs to complete and return to the court once served with a Claim Form. The form itself ought to be included within a bundle of documents titled ‘the Response Pack’, though the relevant form can also be downloaded from the Government website:
Time limits for filing an Acknowledgement of Service
CPR 10.3 states that the period for filing an AoS is:
(a) 14 days after service of the particulars of claim where the defendant is served with a claim form which states that particulars of claim are to follow; and
(b) 14 days after service of the claim form in any other case.
What is the practical significance of filing an Acknowledgement of Service?
Depending on the type of claim that is being pursued, it may be a compulsory requirement to file an AoS; i.e., if proceedings are commenced under CPR Part 8 or where otherwise instructed. However, there is a distinct benefit to a Defendant in filing an AoS, even when it is not strictly required. Time is, unfortunately, the great enemy of Defendants, especially in instances where they had no prior knowledge of the claim being brought against them.
Filing an AoS within 14 days from service of the Claim Form will afford the Defendant a further 14 days (28 days from deemed service) to file their defence. Though not a significant amount of time, this extension does give the Defendant more opportunity to approach a Solicitor for assistance to prepare their Defence.
If no AoS is filed, CPR 15.4 requires the Defendant to file their Defence within 14 days from service.
What happens if I don’t file an Acknowledgement of Service?
If a Defendant fails to file an AoS or a Defence within the time limits set out above, the Claimant will be entitled to apply to the court for a judgment in default. In other words, if the application is successful, the Claimant’s claim automatically succeeds.
So what has actually changed?
The Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2022 & 140th Practice Direction Update came into force on 6th April 2022.
Along with other specific sections of the CPR/and associated Practice Directions, Part 10 has also been refreshed. There is no significant change to the main procedural requirements, though the amendments are said to reflect the courts attempt to simplify and condense the rules. This does involve the removal of Practice Direction 10, which had previously been relied on to provide additional guidance for Defendants when completing the AoS.
Despite the revamp of Part 10 and the removal of the Practice Direction, it remains vitally important for Defendants to ensure they complete and file an AoS, at the very least, to provide them with extra time to seek formal assistance with their Defence. Equally for Claimants, being aware of the procedure that must be followed by the Defendant is advantageous, as it may allow for a default judgement application if not complied with.