Although the new MoJ road traffic rules (RTA) for dealing with smaller claims service went live at the end of last week (30 April) – which in the real world would hopefully mean any issues associated with A2A communications with the Personal Injury Portal (PIP) would be resolved – the feedback we're hearing is that the service is already a shambles. The best source of information at the moment is a LinkdIn group 1K/10K RTA – low value RTA scheme – here are some of the comments being made…
• This project has been run like a joke from the beginning. The user manual provided for the manual process has the wrong URL for connection documented! I submitted my forms and they lost them.. so I followed up asking why I didn't have access and they sent me another round of forms! 2 days to go and we still do not have access to the training system let alone live….. It is clear that this project has been sold to the lowest bidder and in return they got the lowest level of support….
• I don't think you're alone in your assessment but I would point out that the project is not run by Polaris but by IDSL. I think Howard has a tough remit and I don't envy him one bit! What concerns me more is that we are 2 days from go live and yet fundamental questions remain about the rules and the portal. What exactly did FOIL, APIL, the Law Society, etc., etc. do when they were consulted about this project? If, is as is claimed, 500,000 claims a year will be affected I would have thought the devil would have been forced to give up his detail some time ago! Why did this not happen? As a profession I think we were caught sleeping.
• Some of you may find the following of interest. These are MoJ responses to specific questions I have put to them by email:
Q1. Is use of the portal mandatory?
A. Whilst use of the portal is not mandatory, it is the only system currently available we are aware of that complies with the Data Protection Act provisions. We anticipate that if this scheme generates interest other providers of electronic communication systems may wish to have their system addresses added to the Protocol.
Q2. Para. 5.1 of the protocol states that, save for one exception, where the Protocol requires information to be sent to a party it must be electronic. However, there is no definition of “electronic communication” in “Definitions” – if the portal is not mandatory, what qualifies as “electronic”?
A. It is not mandatory to use the IT Portal. However, the industry have decided to develop this IT portal in order to be compliant with the Data Protection Act 1998 to ensure that the information in the forms is exchanged in a secure electronic environment. At the moment this is the only solution which has developed by the industry. Where an alternative means of secure electronic communication is made available we will consider changing the Protocol as appropriate.
Q3. There is no definition of “address” in the “Definitions”.
A. The Protocol has been drafted to set out those definitions deemed necessary.
Q4. Para. 5.1 states that the “address” for electronic communication can be found at www.rtaclaimsprocess.org.uk. Whilst there is a list of “User Contacts”, it is not clear from the IDSL website that these can be used as “addresses” for the purposes of electronic communication. Can you confirm that “User Contacts” are “addresses” for the purposes of the Protocol? (Note: you'll have to log in to the members only section of the webiste to see this list).
A. This is a matter for IDSL to choose how they comply with the rules. Please contact Howard Missin for clarification on whether “User Contacts” are “addresses” for the purposes of the Protocol. Howard's email address is email@example.com
Q5. There is no guidance for what practitioners should do if an “address” cannot be found on the IDSL website.
A. We understand that there is guidance available. Again, please contact Howard Missin for a copy.
Q6. There is no guidance for practitioners as to what to do if a party refuses to use the portal. If that situation arises, what should practitioners do? Is there an official MoJ position on this?
A. Pls see answer for Q2.
• One of our electronic forms providers managed to extract the following statement from MoJ…
”Normal email is not secure for the transmission of the personal data required for these type of claims and should not be used unless there are appropriate security systems in place at both ends, for example, encryption/decryption of sensitive documents. The new RTA claims portal, which has been developed jointly by stakeholders from the claimant solicitor, Trade Union Congress and insurers, provides an appropriate secure electronic communications system for sensitive data to be passed back and forth between claimants and insurers. Para 5.1 of the new protocol provides that the address for serving documents on an insurer electronically in the new process is to be found atwww.rtapiclaimsprocess.org.uk.
“However, that site does not contain lists of authorised email addresses, as it would do if security was not such a consideration. Instead, the address of the defendant is obtained by going through Askmid and identifying the relevant insurer. Once that is done then the user enters the portal and selects the name of the insurer, completes the CNF, etc, and the system then automatically routes the claim to the correct address for that insurer within the portal. This permits claims to remain in the secure system throughout their transmission from claimant to insurer and vice-versa. At no stage do they enter the email system. The courts have made their concern about the vulnerability of this medium very clear. For example, while PD5B does permit certain documents to be filed with specified county courts by email, para 8.7 also contains a general warning not to send anything of a confidential or sensitive nature by email as security cannot be guaranteed. Similar warnings are set out in the Commercial Court User email Guidance and the Protocol for email communications with the Chancery Division of the High Court at the RCJ both of which are on the HMCS website. While PD5C does not contain such an explicit warning, para 2.2 does make it clear that HMCS may “provide such method of encryption to promote security of e-mail communications as may be deemed appropriate” and also cross refers to para 8.7 of PD5B which contains the warning about not sending confidential or sensitive material.”
This of course begs the very pertinent question: if communication by email is so sensitive as to merit explicit rules elsewhere in the CPR, why not for the RTA scheme? Also, how can we rely on a commercial organisation to comply with the Data Protection Act when it has not released Terms and Conditions of Use nor a Service Level Agreement. What is going on?
Comment: We're not sure who Howard Missin is but it seems to be all his fault – we expect he also had something to do with the Icelandic volcano. Seriously, this sounds like a typical Government IT shambles, following in the wake of the magistrates courts IT systems and the original stab at SDLT disasters. As to the second comment about where were APIL, FOIL and the Law Society – noticeable by their absence is LSSA – the Legal Software Suppliers Association. Were they not involved as well?
Since first posting this story, we have received this comment from a vendor who, for obvious reasons, would prefer not to be identified…
I cannot comment on the LSSA but the MOJ has ignored all calls made to them to delay this project. They have changed the schema several times including two days before it went live. Despite this they were expecting software suppliers and firms to be ready on time which is / was quite impossible. My favourite anecdote was a conference call had with several stakeholders (lawyers and suppliers) including several top 100 firms two days before “live” which went something like this.
MOJ : The schema has changed – we will send you out the new format.
US : Does that mean going live will be delayed
MOJ : No
US : But if the schema is changed it means that all the submissions to the portal will be rejected.
MOJ : Yes
US : So how should be submit them
MOJ : Through the portal
US : But they will be rejected