The first expedited arbitration scheme appears to have been introduced in the 1992 Arbitration Rules of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce and Industry Arbitration Rules (“CCIG”). Today, most leading arbitral institutions have adopted specific provisions for expedited procedures in their arbitration rules, which are discussed below.
Characteristics of Expedited Arbitration
The common features of the different sets of rules of expedited arbitration discussed below are:
- the expedited appointment of the arbitral tribunal, usually a sole arbitrator (instead of three arbitrators);
- simplified procedures (typically one round of submissions, without a document production phase);
- expedited issuance of the final award, with summary reasoning, and in principle based solely on documents (unless a final hearing is truly necessary).
In contrast, the main differences between the different expedited arbitration rules are:
- the monetary threshold for a dispute to qualify for fast-track arbitration, which varies significantly among the leading arbitral institutions; and
- whether the expedited provisions apply automatically (i.e., simply by reference to the arbitration rules containing the expedited provisions) or upon express agreement of the parties (i.e., agreement that the expedited provisions of the respective arbitration rules shall apply).
International Chamber of Commerce (“ICC”) Expedited Arbitration
The expedited arbitration rules of the ICC are set forth in Article 30 and Appendix VI of the 2021 ICC Arbitration Rules (collectively referred to in the Rules as the “Expedited Procedure Provisions”; see also Expedited Arbitration Under the ICC Rules.).
The ICC Expedited Procedure Provisions automatically apply if the amount in dispute does not exceed (Article 30(2) and Article 1(2) of Appendix VI):
- USD 2 million, if the arbitration agreement under the Rules was concluded on or after 1 March 2017 and before 1 January 2021; or
- USD 3 million, if the arbitration agreement under the Rules was concluded on or after 1 January 2021; or
- if the parties so agree, irrespective of the amount in dispute.
The ICC Expedited Procedure Provisions do not apply if (Article 30(3)):
- the arbitration agreement was concluded before the date on which the ICC Expedited Procedure Provisions came into force, i.e., 1 March 2017;
- the parties have agreed to opt out of the ICC Expedited Procedure Provisions; or
- the ICC Court, upon the request of a party before the constitution of the arbitral tribunal or on its own motion, determines that it is inappropriate in the circumstances to apply the Expedited Procedure Provisions.
A sole arbitrator may be appointed, notwithstanding any contrary provision of the arbitration agreement (Article 2 of Appendix VI).
A case management conference shall take place no later than 15 days from the date on which the file was transmitted to the arbitral tribunal (Article 3(3) of Appendix VI).
Upon consultation with the parties, the arbitral tribunal can decide the dispute without a hearing and without examining witnesses and experts (Article 3(5) Appendix VI).
The arbitral tribunal must render its final award within six months from the case management conference date, unless extended by the ICC Court (Article 4(1) of Appendix VI).
A reduced scale of fees for the arbitral tribunal applies in ICC expedited arbitrations (Appendix III; Article 4(2) of Appendix VI). The amount of the ICC administrative fees is the same in expedited and non-expedited arbitrations, however (Appendix III).
Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (“SCC”) Expedited Arbitration
The SCC adopted its expedited rules in a separate document, the 2023 SCC Expedited Arbitration Rules. They apply only by express agreement of the parties either in their arbitration agreement or after a dispute has arisen (Preamble, p. 3 of PDF). Their application is thus not linked to the amount in dispute, as is the case for other arbitration rules. This is unfortunate, as parties are rarely aware of the amount in dispute until a dispute has arisen.
The arbitration shall be decided by a sole arbitrator (Article 17) appointed by the Parties or the SCC Board (Article 18).
The final award shall be made no later than three months from the date the case was referred to the sole arbitrator by the SCC Secretariat (Article 43), although the SCC Board may extend this time limit.
The cost of SCC expedited arbitrations (SCC Schedule of Costs for Expedited Arbitrations) is lower than the cost of standard (non-expedited) SCC arbitrations (2023 SCC Schedule of Costs). For instance, for a case with an amount in dispute of EUR 2 million with a sole arbitrator, SCC administrative fees are EUR 15,240 (excluding VAT) for expedited arbitrations versus EUR 29,250 (excluding VAT) for non-expedited arbitrations, and the sole arbitrator’s fees can range from EUR 23,900 to EUR 52,100 for expedited arbitrations versus EUR 28,000 to EUR 72,000 for non-expedited arbitrations.
For a general discussion of the SCC rules, you may also refer to this overview of the 2023 SCC Arbitration Rules.
London Court of International Arbitration (“LCIA”) Expedited Arbitration
Surprisingly, the LCIA does not have separate rules for expedited arbitrations in its 2020 LCIA Arbitration Rules currently in force.
The arbitral tribunal may, nevertheless, make any procedural order it considers appropriate regarding the “efficient and expeditious conduct of the arbitration” (Article 14.5).
In cases of “exceptional urgency”, a party may also request the expedited formation of the arbitration tribunal (Article 9A) or the expedited appointment of a replacement arbitrator (Article 9C).
According to the LCIA Notes on Emergency Procedures (¶ 19), there is no prescribed standard as to what the LCIA considers “exceptional urgency”. Each case is considered on its own merits. Section 6 of these LCIA Notes contains examples (case studies) of circumstances that have, and have not, been considered by the LCIA to satisfy the threshold of exceptional urgency. For instance:
The parties’ dispute arose out of alleged early unlawful termination of an agreement for the distribution of TV rights.
The Claimant applied for expedited formation of the Tribunal in its Request for Arbitration, under Article 9 of the 1998 Rules, arguing that: (a) service under the agreements would cease in 27 days (when the disputed notice of termination took effect), resulting in millions of the Claimant’s customers no longer receiving the Respondent’s live programming, which would immediately impact the Claimant’s reputation and customer relations; and (b) if the Respondent failed to honour the exclusivity obligations, competitors would be able to obtain access to the programmes that the agreement guaranteed would be exclusive to the Claimant.
The LCIA Court considered there was exceptional urgency and granted the application.
A party may also request the immediate appointment of a temporary sole arbitrator to conduct emergency proceedings pending the formation or expedited formation of the arbitral tribunal (Article 9B).
Swiss Arbitration Centre Expedited Arbitration
As mentioned above, the CCIG was likely the first institution to introduce provisions for expedited arbitrations in Article 31 of its 1992 CCIG Arbitration Rules.
The CCIG has recently co-founded the Swiss Arbitration Centre, which resulted from a merger with the Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution (SCAI).
The Swiss Arbitration Centre has adopted the 2021 Swiss Rules of International Arbitration, which provide for expedited procedures in Article 42 (Expedited Procedure).
The Swiss expedited provisions apply to all cases in which (Article 42(1)):
- the parties so agree; or
- the amount in dispute, representing the aggregate of all claims (or any set-off defence), does not exceed CHF 1 million, unless the Court decides otherwise, taking into account all relevant circumstances.
The case shall, in principle, be referred to a sole arbitrator (Article 42(2)(a)). If the arbitration agreement refers to three arbitrators, the Secretariat shall invite the parties to agree to refer the case to a sole arbitrator (Article 42(2)(b)).
The final award shall be made within six months from the date on which the arbitral tribunal received the file from the Secretariat, subject to extension by the Secretariat in exceptional circumstances (Article 42(2)(e)).
For a general discussion of the Swiss Rules, you may refer to our note on the Revised 2021 Swiss Arbitration Rules.
United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (“UNCITRAL”) Expedited Arbitration
The UNCITRAL introduced its expedited rules in 2021, as an appendix to the 2021 UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules (Article 1(5): “The Expedited Arbitration Rules in the appendix shall apply to the arbitration where the parties so agree.”).
The key feature of these rules is that they apply only if “the parties so agree”, irrespective of the amount in dispute (Article 1(5)).
The default number of arbitrators is one (Article 7 of Appendix).
The final award must be rendered within six months from the date of the constitution of the tribunal, unless the parties agree otherwise (Article 16(1) of Appendix).
For a more elaborate analysis, please refer to our note on the UNCITRAL Expedited Arbitration Rules.
American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) and its International Centre for Dispute Resolution (“ICDR”) Expedited Arbitration
An expedited procedure is also envisaged in Article 1(4) and Articles E-1 through E-10 of the 2021 ICDR Arbitration Rules, in addition to any other portion of these rules that is not in conflict with the expedited procedure (referred to in the Rules as “Expedited Procedures”).
The ICDR Expedited Procedures apply (Article 1(4)):
- in any case in which no disclosed claim or counterclaim exceedsUSD 500,000, exclusive of interest and the arbitration costs; or
- where the parties so agree.
A sole arbitrator shall be appointed under a list procedure described in Article E-6. In particular, the ICDR Administrator shall submit to the parties a list of five proposed arbitrators to choose from. If the parties are unable to agree on a sole arbitrator, they may strike two names from the list and number the remaining names in order of preference. If a consensus on a sole arbitrator cannot be reached that way either, then the ICDR Administrator appoints a Sole Arbitrator.
Within 14 days of appointment, the sole arbitrator shall issue a procedural order for the conduct of the arbitration (Article E-7).
If deemed necessary, an oral hearing shall take place within 60 days of the date of the procedural order (Article E-8).
A final award shall be made not later than 30 days from the date of the closing of the hearing or from the time established for final written submissions (Article E-10).
International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (“ICSID”) Expedited Arbitration
The ICSID expedited rules are set out in Chapter XII (Rule 75 to 86) of the 2022 ICSID Arbitration Rules currently in force.
For the ICSID expedited rules to apply, the parties to an investment dispute need to provide their written consent, by a joint notification to the ICDR Secretary-General (Rule 75(1)). As underlined in Working Paper No. 1 (¶ 668), the ICSID expedited rules “do not apply automatically, and Tribunals cannot apply them without the express consent of the parties.”
For a more extensive analysis, please refer to our note on ICSID Expedited Arbitration.
Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (“HKIAC”) Expedited Arbitration
The HKIAC expedited procedure is regulated in Article 42 (Expedited Procedure) of the 2018 HKIAC Administered Arbitration Rules. It applies when:
- the amount in dispute (representing the aggregate amount of the claim(s) and any counterclaim(s) or set-off) does not exceed the amount set by HKIAC on its website, currently HKD 25 million;
- the parties agree; or
- in cases of exceptional urgency.
The case is referred to a sole arbitrator, unless the arbitration agreement refers to three arbitrators (in which case the HKIAC will ask the Parties to agree on a sole arbitrator instead) and the parties insist on three arbitrators (Article 42.2(a) and (b)).
The parties are, in principle, entitled to one round of submissions (Article 42.2(d)).
The arbitral tribunal decides the cases based on the documents without the need for a hearing (Article 42.2(e)).
The final award shall be communicated to the parties within six months from the date when HKIAC transmitted the case file to the arbitral tribunal, unless extended by the HKIAC (Article 42.2(f)). The final award may only contain reasons in summary form, unless the parties have agreed that no reasons are to be given (Article 42.2(g)).
China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (“CIETAC”) Expedited Arbitration
The 2015 CIETAC Arbitration Rules envisage an expedited procedure in Chapter IV, Articles 56 to 64 (referred to under the Rules as a “Summary Procedure”).
The CIETAC Summary Procedure applies if (Article 56.2):
- if the amount in dispute does not exceed RMB 5 million unless otherwise agreed by the parties; or
- where the amount in dispute exceeds RMB 5 million, but one party applies for arbitration under the summary procedure and the other party agrees in writing; or
- where both parties have agreed to apply the summary procedure.
Where there is no monetary claim or the amount in dispute is not clear, the CIETAC shall determine whether or not to apply the summary procedure after full consideration of relevant factors, including but not limited to the complexity of the case and the interests involved (Article 56.1).
A sole arbitrator shall be appointed, unless otherwise agreed by the parties (Article 58).
An award under the summary procedure shall be made within three months from the date of the arbitral tribunal’s formation, subject to extension by the President of the CIETAC Arbitration Court “if he/she considers it truly necessary and the reasons for extension truly justified” (Article 62.2).
Singapore International Arbitration Centre (“SIAC”) Expedited Arbitration
The rules for the expedited procedure are envisaged in Rule 5 of the 2016 SIAC Arbitration Rules.
A party may apply to the SIAC Registrar for an expedited procedure if (Rule 5.1):
- the aggregate amount in dispute does not exceed SGD 6 million; or
- the parties so agree; or
- in cases of exceptional urgency.
The case under the expedited procedure shall be referred to a sole arbitrator (Article 5.2(b)).
An award shall be made within six months from the date of the sole arbitrator’s appointment, subject to extension by the SIAC Registrar in exceptional circumstances (Article 5.2(d)).
Dubai International Arbitration Centre (“DIAC”) Expedited Arbitration
The rules for the expedited procedures are set out in Article 32 (Expedited Proceedings) of the 2022 DIAC Arbitration Rules.
Pursuant to Article 32.1, the DIAC expedited rules apply:
- if the total of the sum(s) claimed and counterclaimed is below or equals AED 1 million (exclusive of interest and legal representation costs);
- if the parties agree in writing;
- in cases of exceptional urgency as determined by the DIAC Arbitration Court upon a party’s application.
A sole arbitrator shall be appointed by the DIAC Centre within five days of the DIAC Arbitration Court’s decision to allow the expedited proceedings.
The sole arbitrator must issue the final award within three months from the date of the transmission of the file to the tribunal by the Centre, unless extended (Article 32.5).
It can be observed that, except for the SCC and the UNCITRAL, most leading arbitral institutions (ICC, Swiss Arbitration Centre, AAA/ICDR, ICSID, HKIAC, CIETAC, SIAC and DIAC) link the application of expedited procedures to the amount in dispute.
This monetary threshold varies significantly, for instance, from USD 500,000 in AAA/ICDR arbitrations up to USD 3 million in ICC arbitrations.
The amount in dispute is not necessarily indicative of the complexity of a dispute, however. Also, expedited arbitration might not be suitable for complex disputes. The right balance must thus be struck, on a case-by-case basis, so that a streamlined procedure does not come at the expense of the parties’ due process rights, which include the right to a fair and impartial hearing, the right to be heard and to present evidence and arguments.
Expedited arbitrations are not always more cost-effective than traditional arbitrations either. A fast-track procedure normally requires lawyers to work intensively to meet shorter deadlines, thus billing many hours. Just because the procedure is shorter in expedited arbitrations, this does not necessarily mean that the parties’ legal fees will be lower. Legal fees are typically the most significant cost in international arbitration.
In conclusion, today, most leading arbitration rules have adopted provisions for expedited arbitration. A common theme of these fast-track rules is that they offer accelerated timelines, simplified procedures, reduced costs, limited or no hearings, and a focus on promptly issuing awards, thus making it a quicker and sometimes more cost-effective alternative to standard arbitration. Expedited arbitration is not a one-size-fits-all solution, however. It can be suitable for simple, straightforward, or time-sensitive disputes, but not for complex ones, which require extensive evidence, more than one round of submissions and an oral hearing.
 C. Imhoos, The 1992 Geneva Chamber of Commerce and Industry Arbitration Rules under Scrutiny, 9(4) J. of Intl. Arb. 121, p. 134-135.