The public consultation for the Draft 7th Edition of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (“SIAC”) Rules (the “Draft Rules”) has commenced. The Draft Rules draws from SIAC’s experience of administering over 3,000 arbitration proceedings under the current rules and demonstrates SIAC’s commitment to advancing the practice of international arbitration.
The Draft Rules introduces some significant developments and puts forwards some novel amendments to the existing rules. Below, we discuss key proposed revisions to the SIAC Rules.
The Draft Rules propose an electronic mechanism for communications with the SIAC – the SIAC Gateway (Draft Rule 4). Draft Rule 6 provides that Notices of Arbitration may now be filed electronically through the SIAC Gateway (instead of physically, as is the current practice). Once the Notice is filed through the SIAC Gateway, it appears that the arbitration will be deemed to be commenced. Whilst seemingly insignificant, the SIAC Gateway may develop into a secured centralised portal for the exchanging of documents electronically, thereby addressing the problem of cyber-attacks or information leakages in arbitration proceedings.
Quick and Cheap Resolution for Small Value Claims
The Draft Rules envisage an even more streamlined process (compared to the Expedited Procedure) for small value claims. This is the Streamlined Procedure (Draft Rule 13 and Draft Schedule 2). Parties with claims under SGD 1 million may apply for proceedings to be conducted under the Streamlined Procedure, at half the cost and with arbitral awards rendered within three months from the constitution of the Tribunal.
As for the Expedited Procedure, under which arbitral awards are to be rendered with six months from the constitution of the Tribunal, the Draft Rules adjust the maximum threshold for qualifying claims from SGD 6 million to SGD 10 million. This is sensible given the inflationary environment and nominal increase in value of claims going forward.
At this juncture, it is important to note that whilst the Streamlined and Expedited Procedures provide for a shorter time period for the issuance of arbitral awards, this time period may be (and has been) extended in practice. Although parties should expect arbitral awards to be rendered faster, this may not necessarily be within the stipulated three / six-month period.
Issues with Choice and Consent
In its push to create a more efficient and effective dispute resolution process, the Draft Rules contain revisions that may affect parties’ choice and consent with respect to the conduct of arbitration proceedings.
- Draft Rule 10.5 accords Tribunals the power to reject parties’ right to its choice of representative in the arbitration (even if such representative is preferred by a party).
- Draft Rule 24 provides that Tribunal Secretaries may be utilised, regardless of parties’ consent, and the fees associated with Tribunal Secretaries shall be borne by parties.
Given that the basic tenet of arbitration is the voluntary consent of parties to have their disputes resolved through an arbitral process so agreed amongst themselves, it is unclear whether and to what extent the proposed revisions (insofar as they may negate the free choice and consent of parties) would be implemented in the next edition of the SIAC Rules.
Confidentiality of Arbitrations in Future
Another interesting revision in the Draft Rules is the possibility of creating legal precedents in arbitration proceedings. Draft Rule 60 contemplates the publication of redacted awards. Should parties not wish to have such awards published, they may opt-out of the automatic publication of awards within a six-month window post conclusion of the arbitration. If implemented, this revision will address long-running concerns that having disputes resolved via confidential arbitration proceedings detriments the community as there would be fewer legal precedents to guide future disputing parties. That said, whether parties will react well to the automatic publication of awards (even though redacted) remains to be seen.
As arbitration specialists, we advise and assist on the conduct of arbitration proceedings domestically, regionally and internationally. Our lawyers have conducted arbitration proceedings under the major arbitration institution (i.e., ICC, LCIA, SIAC and UNCITRAL) rules. To find out about how we can help, do reach out to any member of our team.