Revolutionizing Arbitration: The 2023 Saudi Centre for Commercial Arbitration Rules Enhance Efficiency and Reduce Costs
May 9, 2023
Last week, the new edition of the Saudi Centre for Commercial Arbitration (“SCCA”) Rules came into force. The original SCCA Rules were first adopted in 2016, and this second edition is aimed at further adopting best arbitration practices to enhance efficiency while reducing costs. The 2023 SCCA Rules apply to arbitrations filed on or after 1 May 2023.
More efficient proceedings
Notable provisions aimed at increasing the efficiency of proceedings (both in terms of time and costs) empower the Tribunal to:
- dispense with a hearing and make a determination on the basis of documents;
- make an early disposition of claims and defenses;
- manage the exchange of information with the aim of maintaining procedural efficiency and economy by dispensing with or limiting the length of written submissions or witness testimony;
- refuse to allow a change in legal representation to safeguard the proceedings or the composition of the Tribunal.
In addition, the 2023 SCCA Rules provide specific time limits for the nomination and appointment of arbitrators, as well as for raising jurisdictional challenges and holding the initial case management conference.
Another important feature of the 2023 SCCA Rules relates to issues arising out of complex arbitrations, with new provisions addressing joinder and consolidation. The Rules also uphold and safeguard the transparency of arbitral proceedings by introducing a requirement for the disclosure of any parties with economic interests in the outcome of the proceedings.
A technology-driven, green approach
In line with the rules of major arbitral institutions, the 2023 SCCA Rules promote a technology-driven and modern, green approach to arbitration. The Rules encourage careful consideration of how the use of technology (such as electronic communications for the presentation of evidence and filing) can reduce the environmental impact of the arbitration, as long as the use of such technology does not reasonably impair a party’s ability to present its case.
In parallel, the increased emphasis on electronic and virtual processes is balanced with provisions relating to cybersecurity. These measures are aimed at protecting parties’ data and privacy from breach, and require the adoption of information security measures as appropriate for the risk profile of the arbitration.
In addition, the third edition of the Online Dispute Resolution (“ODR”) Rules – updated to align with the 2023 SCCA Rules – also came into effect on 1 May 2023. The ODR Rules provide a default regime for the rapid dispute resolution for small claims: where the total amount in dispute does not exceed SAR 200,000 (excluding arbitration costs), a sole arbitrator will issue an award within 30 days.
One major novelty of the 2023 SCCA Rules is the establishment of SCCA Court, an independent body composed of 15 members comprising of eminent arbitration lawyers, professors at renowned universities, and leaders of arbitral institutions. The SCCA Court has several important functions relating to:
- the appointment of emergency arbitrators;
- the determination of objections to joinder and consolidation;
- the appointment, challenge, and removal of arbitrators;
- the determination of the place of arbitration;
- the determination of the SCCA administrative fees and expenses and the fees of the arbitral Tribunal; and
- the review of draft awards prior to their issuance by the Tribunal.
Dr. Habib Al Mulla is currently serving as a member of the SCCA Court. He is a former Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC), and is a member of the Board of the Dubai International Chamber and the Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC) Academy Board.
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