With the estimated time frame for a matter to be brought before a trial Judge in the Western Cape High Court being upwards of three years, parties are unsurprisingly seeking faster alternative dispute mechanisms. In light of its potential to solve disputes more expeditiously than litigation, arbitration has become an increasingly popular alternative.
However, arbitration too, can become protracted like its litigious counterpart, with the parties incurring increasing legal fees that may surpass seeking remedy from the courts. Parties to a dispute that is less complex and involves a smaller quantum, can avoid a lengthy and costly arbitration by agreeing to follow an arbitration process that is simpler, more informal, and procedurally abridged.
The Summary Procedure Rules contained in the Rules for the conduct of Arbitrations published by the Association of Arbitrators (Southern Africa) support an arbitration of this nature. According to the Rules for the conduct of Arbitrations the Summary Procedure Rules are intended for smaller and simpler arbitrations, particularly where the parties do not have legal representation and have limited experience of the arbitration procedure. Under the Summary Procedure Rules, the arbitrator plays a more involved role in the proceedings than he/she would in an arbitration subject to the Standard Procedure Rules.
In order for a dispute to be referred to arbitration, both parties must agree to arbitration. The underlying contract can provide for an arbitration process that is simpler, faster and less expensive by specifying certain details of the arbitration process such as the details of the Arbitrator (or body from which the Arbitrator must be nominated), the powers of the Arbitrator, and the applicability (or not) of the Uniform Rules of Court.