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A quicker and more comprehensive arbitration (key changes in the AIAC Arbitration Rules 2021)

The Asian International Arbitration Centre [“AIAC”] has launched the AIAC Arbitration Rules 2021 [“2021 Rules”] which took effect and is applicable to all arbitral proceedings commenced after 1st August 2021.

The 2021 Rules provided more clarity to the rules and saw a number of significant changes to the previous AIAC Arbitration Rules 2018 [“2018 Rules”]. Here are 5 of the more notable changes.

1. Consolidation and streamlining of rules

 The UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules which were previously in Part II of the 2018 Rules has now been consolidated with the AIAC Arbitration Rules in the 2021 Rules.

The Fast Track Arbitration Rules which were a separate document altogether has also now been incorporated in Rule 8 of the 2021 Rules.

This move streamlines the arbitration process and a single set of rules eliminates the possibility of inconsistent rules, which has led to disputes between parties in the past.

2. One notice of arbitration, multiple claims

Rule 5.3 of the 2021 Rules allows a claimant to file one notice of arbitration for multiple claims and/or contracts – if the legal issues and parties to the claims and/or contracts are the same (subject to Rule 22).

If allowed, this also means that the claimant and respondent would only have to pay one set of fees for multiple claims, saving valuable time and money for both sides.

3. Summary Determination

Rule 19 of the 2021 Rules introduces summary determination of a matter where a party’s claim / defence / counterclaim:

  1. Is manifestly without merit; or
  2. Manifestly falls outside the Arbitral Tribunal’s jurisdiction.

Brief timeline

A request for summary determination must be submitted within 30 days of filing of the claim / defence / counterclaim (Rule 19.2).

A reply must be filed within 15 days of receipt of the request (Rule 19.4).

A hearing must be fixed and a decision on the summary determination must be given no more than 45 days after receipt of the final submission (Rule 19.5, Rule 19.6).

4. Expansion of arbitrator’s powers

Rule 13.5(a) of the 2021 Rules now gives the arbitrator additional powers to determine the law applicable to the dispute where there is no agreement between the parties.

Rule 44.5 of the 2021 Rules empowers the arbitrator to also order costs or damages against any party who breaches the confidentiality of the arbitration proceedings.

5. Publication of Awards

Rule 44.6 of the 2021 Rules allows for arbitration awards to now be published, similar to judgments given in court.

This is however subject to written consent from the parties in the arbitration, and subject to the redaction of names and any other identifying information.

Parallel to this is the introduction of Rule 44.4 of the 2021 Rules which provides that an undertaking of confidentiality must be given by all parties involved in the arbitration – this extends to authorised representatives, witnesses, experts, or service providers.

Conclusion

All in all, the revamped 2021 Rules are a welcome change in the current climate where much of the profession places emphasis on the need for speed and efficacy. Do bear in mind that the AIAC Arbitration Rules 2018 continue to be applicable:

  1. If parties to an arbitration agree to apply the 2018 Rules; or
  2. If the arbitration commenced before 1st August 2021.
Author
Senior Legal Associate at Chee Hoe & Associates.
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