An agent for the service of process (or a process agent) is the representative of a contractual party upon whom the court or arbitration proceedings may be served.
The Civil Procedure Rules of England and Wales provides very strict rules relating to the service of proceedings. These can be difficult to follow and evidence when attempting to serve proceedings on a company based overseas. However, CPR Rule 6.11 provides that:
(1) Where –
(a) a contract contains a term providing that, in the event of a claim being started in relation to the contract, the claim form may be served by a method or at a place specified in the contract; and
(b) a claim solely in respect of that contract is started,
the claim form may, subject to paragraph (2), be served on the defendant by the method or at the place specified in the contract.
Common practice in England and Wales has evolved to make use of this provision to specify that service can be made on a process agent located in England and Wales, thereby removing the need on the serving party to serve proceedings outside of England and Wales.
By appointing a trusted and accepted process agent, it also means that the serving party can be confident that service will be accepted and not contested by the agent.
The following is an example of a clause used to appoint an agent
[Party] hereby irrevocably appoints [Name of Process Agent] of [address] (the “Agent“) as its agent to receive on its behalf in England and Wales service of any proceedings arising out of or in connection with this Agreement. Such service shall be deemed completed on delivery to the Agent. If for any reason the Agent ceases to be able to act as agent or no longer has an address within England or Wales, [Party] shall immediately appoint a substitute and give notice to the other parties of the new agent’s name and address within England or Wales.
In the event that proceedings are served on the agent, then they will forward the documents on to the principal in accordance with their instructions.
It should be noted that there are often obligations on the principal to respond to the service of proceedings within a time specified by the Courts. It is therefore vitally important that the process agent is kept up-to-date with the relevant contact details for the principal.