The Saudi Center for Commercial Arbitration (SCCA) opened its first office outside of Saudi Arabia in the DIFC. SCCA Dubai has started operating on 2 February 2023 and offers a comprehensive suite of ADR services to local and international businesses based in the UAE and/or operating in the Middle East.
In the latest developments, the SCCA has released its second edition of the SCCA Arbitration Rules (SCCA Rules), effective 1 May 2023. The SCCA Rules build on the first edition and have been developed with a view of reducing costs and maximizing efficiency. A comprehensive review of the earlier edition has resulted in several revisions, which ensure that the SCCA Rules remain up to date and in line with international best practice. This is a further positive extension of the work being done by the SCCA to promote itself as the Middle East’s preferred centre for ADR.
We set out below a high-level summary of select amendments and updates to the SCCA Rules.
The SCCA Rules have established a new SCCA Court, an independent body of the SCCA, which comprises 15 members of prominent arbitration practitioners. The functions of the SCCA Court include:
- appointment, challenge and removal of arbitrators,
- review of draft awards issued by the arbitral tribunal (with limited scrutiny powers as to form),
- determination of joinder and consolidation,
- determination of SCCA administrative and arbitrator fees, and
- resolution of disagreements as to the place of arbitration.
Except where provided otherwise in the SCCA Rules, the decisions of the SCCA Court are final and binding.
The arbitral tribunal must apply the rules of the law designated by the parties as applicable to the substance of the dispute. Should the parties fail to designate the applicable law, the tribunal must apply the law which it deems to be appropriate. Notably, the SCCA Rules no longer make reference to the application of Shariah principles. The first edition rules required tribunals to apply the rules of Shariah in addition to the rules of law designated by the parties. However, Shariah principles will continue to be applied in Saudi-seated arbitrations and when seeking enforcement before the Saudi Courts.
The law applicable to the arbitration agreement shall be the law applicable at the place of arbitration, unless the parties have agreed in writing on the application of other laws or rules of law.
This brings the SCCA Rules in line with prevailing arbitration practice and will ensure more certainty where parties opt in to the SCCA as ADR forum.
Conduct of Arbitration
The use of technology is encouraged when conducting the arbitration proceedings by allowing and promoting electronic document transmission and presentation.
Further the arbitral tribunal has the discretionary power to decide on the conduct of the arbitration, including deciding on preliminary issues, bifurcating the proceedings, directing the order of proof, excluding cumulative or irrelevant testimony or other evidence, and directing the parties to focus their presentations on issues, the resolution of which could dispose of all or part of the case.
Considerations of the Exchange of Information between Parties and Decisions on Documents to Enhance Efficiency
The tribunal is empowered to manage the exchange of information (including written submissions) with a view to ensuring that efficiency and procedural economy are appropriately upheld. Measures to be employed by a tribunal include:
- limiting the length or content, or dispensing with, certain written submissions; and
- limiting the written / oral testimony of witnesses.
The tribunal may also decide a case on the documents, unless a party requests a hearing and the tribunal deems it appropriate to hold one in the circumstances.
Emphasis on Cybersecurity, Privacy and Data Protection
The tribunal has the power to determine the appropriate information security measures applicable to the arbitration, that are reasonable in the circumstances and taking into account the following:
- risk profile of the arbitration;
- existing security practices, infrastructure and capabilities of the participants;
- burden of costs;
- proportionality in respect of the size, value and risk profile of the dispute; and
- efficiency of the arbitration.
Time Limit on Jurisdictional Challenges
A party is obligated to object to the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal before or at the moment they transmit their response to the Request for Arbitration to the tribunal.
Inclusion of Early Disposition of Claims and Defences
In order to promote efficiency, the arbitral tribunal has the power to dispose of issues regarding jurisdiction, admissibility or legal merits of a claim or defence within the early phases of the arbitral proceedings.
Emergency Arbitrator Procedure Rules
The Emergency Arbitrator Procedure Rules (Appendix III), which were first adopted on 15 October 2018, have also been amended to align with the changes to the SCCA Rules. The amendments provide for greater flexibility, by allowing parties to apply for emergency relief prior to transmitting a Request for Arbitration to the SCCA (which must then be submitted within 10 days to avoid termination of the emergency proceedings). Emergency arbitrators must be appointed within one business day from the commencement of the proceedings, and the interim award / order must be issued within 14 days from the date that the file was submitted to the emergency arbitrator.
The SCCA Rules (including the Emergency Arbitrator Procedure Rules) apply to all arbitrations filed on or after 1 May 2023.
 Article 7 (Emergency Measures of Arbitration), Article 16 (Appointment of Arbitrators), Article 18 (Challenge of Arbitrators), Article 19 (Replacement of an Arbitrator).
 Article 36 (Form and Effect of Award).
 Article 13 (Consolidation).
 Article 41 and 42 (SCCA Administrative Fees and Expenses) and (SCCA Administrative Fees and Expenses).
 Article 22 (Place of Arbitration).
 Article 37 (Applicable Law).
 Article 4 (Notice and Calculation of Periods of Time).
 Article 25(3) (Conduct of Arbitration).
 Article 27 (Exchange of Information).
 Article 29 (Hearing).
 Article 46 (Cyber Security, Privacy and Data Protection).
 Article 24(4) (Admissibility, Arbitrability, and Jurisdiction).
 Article 26 (Early Disposition of Claims or Defenses).
 Article 7 (Emergency Measure of Protection).