Since 2017 it has been mandatory to share more information between the parties involved in a debt claim process, to increase the chances of an Out-of-Court resolution. This is called the Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims.  The Protocol works on the principle that both the Creditor and Debtor sharing more information will enable each party to better understand the situation, allowing an agreement to be reached without further action or involvement from the Courts.

It is important for you to understand the Pre-Action Protocol and what it means for you during the debt recovery process. It explains clearly how you are expected to behave during the process and the steps required before Court action can begin. Remember, Debt-Claims Solicitors will be by your side every step of the way to ensure you remain within all legal guidelines.

The Pre-Action Protocol does not apply where the debt is subject to another Pre-Action Protocol such as Construction and Engineering or Mortgage Arrears or claims for the Recovery of Taxes and Duties issued by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

Checked out tick boxes

What are the objectives of the Pre-Action Protocol?

Early engagement and communication between the parties, including the early exchange of sufficient information about the matter at hand, so that any issues requiring dispute can be identified as quickly as possible.

To enable parties to resolve the matter without court proceedings, including agreeing a reasonable repayment plan or considering using an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedure.

To encourage the parties to act in a reasonable and proportionate manner in all dealings with one another (for example, avoiding running up costs which do not bear a reasonable relationship to the sums in issue).

To support the efficient management of proceedings that cannot be avoided.


If you would like to read more about the Pre-Action Protocol, you can read our guide here

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To read the Protocol in full

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Pre-Action Protocol timescales

Original letter

The Letter Before Action gives the debtor 30 days to pay the debt in full before Court proceedings can begin.

Reply form completed

If you get a completed reply form, you should not start proceedings for 30 days from receiving the response.

Documents requested

The debtor may request copies of documentation relevant to the claim. You must allow 30 days from the date you provided the documents before continuing court proceedings. If you cannot provide these documents, you have 30 days to explain why.

Debtor getting advice

If, in their response, the debtor says they are getting advice, you should allow at least 30 days before taking action, longer if that would be reasonable.

Partial reply form

You may receive a partially completed reply form, in which case contact will be made with the debtor to establish why this is the case.

Agreement not reached

If you have received a partially completed reply form and conversation has been had with the debtor but you can’t reach an agreement, the case will need reviewing. You will need to give a final 14 days’ notice before suing.

Issuing a claim

During any part of the pre-action process, the debtor must be given an additional written warning at least 14 days in advance of court action being commenced unless the matter is urgent and there are limitation issues in accordance with the Limitation Act 1980 – Debt-claims will advise you if this is the case.

Summary of the Pre-Action Protocol

The Ministry of Justice introduced the Pre-Action Protocol to ensure all parties have exhausted all possible means of resolve before legal proceedings are started. It also prevents parties (or their legal representatives) from becoming involved in costly, drawn-out pre-action litigation.

If the protocol is adhered to, cost and time savings are likely because in many cases it reduces the possibility of further action. To make reclaiming your business debt as quick and stress-free as possible, appoint Debt-Claims Solicitors today to have your first Pre-Action correspondence issued as soon as the debt is due.

Alternatively, you may decide to send the Pre-Action Correspondence yourself. You are entitled to do so, but please be wary of the Protocol and non-compliance sanctions.

Pre-Action Protocol Guides

Debt-Claims Solicitors have created a simple easy to understand guide for the Pre-Action Protocol.

While these guides are simply for guidance, the Debt–Claims team are available to answer any of your pre-action questions in person.

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