1. Can I settle the dispute without going to court?
Court action should generally be your last resort. You should first consider other ways to settle your dispute.
For example, if a person owes you money, you may first write him a demand letter. In the demand letter, you should state how much money he owes you and what it is for, and give him a warning that if he does not repay you by the date you mention, you will take legal action against him. Sometimes this warning, in particular if given by your lawyer on your behalf, will be effective in getting the debtor to repay you and so you do not have to go to court to start a civil action. If your debtor is willing to repay but is not able to make a lump sum payment of all the money he owes, you may negotiate with him for settlement by instalments. You must keep a copy of the demand letter and any reply record from the debtor. In case you do eventually have to go to court, you may need to use them as evidence.
There are also some alternative channels which may help you settle disputes. For example, if you are facing a commercial dispute, you could possibly consider arbitration as an alternative to a civil court action . Please contact the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre if you are interested in arbitration services. However, please note that before commencing the arbitration procedure, both parties must agree to solve the dispute by arbitration. For more details about arbitration, please click here.
As from 2 April 2009, under the Civil Justice Reform, mediation was introduced as a voluntary resolution process. The aim is to encourage settlement and to achieve cost-effectiveness. The Court may now stay the Court proceedings to enable the parties to explore alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”). Mediation is the recommended ADR by the Court.
If you are facing an employment dispute, you may call the Labour Relation Division of the Labour Department in order to obtain preliminary advice.