The Financial Ombudsman has launched a new website and Twitter account aimed exclusively at small businesses. The Financial Ombudsman Service for Small Businesses has the power to settle disputes between small businesses and financial service providers.
Who can the Financial Ombudsman Service for Small Businesses help?
The service is designed to help micro-enterprises and small businesses, including self-employed people, partnerships and limited companies.
It defines micro-enterprises as employing fewer than 10 people and have a turnover or annual balance sheet not exceeding £2 million. Small businesses are described as having an annual turnover of less than £6.5 million, a balance sheet total of less than £5 million, or employing fewer than 50 employees.
It can also help charities with an annual income of less than £6.5m and trusts with a net asset value of less than £5m. Individuals who act as personal guarantors for loans to businesses they’re involved in are also covered.
What kind of complaint can the service deal with?
If you’re a small business, the service can only look at your complaint if it relates to events that occurred on or after 1 April 2019. Micro-enterprises may be able to get to help with complaints originating before that date.
You need to give the company against whom you have a complaint a chance to put things right first. If their response isn’t satisfactory, you must contact the service within six months of the business’s final response. There are some exceptions to this rule; the service explains more about how time limits affect your complaint here.
The service can help you with complaints about most financial products from providers in or from the UK, including:
- banking and credit, including bank accounts, payment services, secured loans and overdrafts
- insurance, including vehicle, commercial property, business protection and legal expenses insurance
- financial advice and investments
They may also be able to help with complaints from EEA based providers, so contact them to check.
What the service will not usually deal with
Complaints that have already been ruled on by a court, or those the service has looked at already.
The complaint process
When you get in touch, the service will need to know:
- basic information about your business, including approximate turnover and those authorised to make a complaint on behalf of your business
- what the problem is, and how you want things put right
- details such as the policy number or account number that your complaint relates to
Once they’ve confirmed they can help with your complaint, they will contact the other business. They will collect information and then weigh up the facts impartially, before explaining their decision.
If they decide you have been treated unfairly, they’ll tell the business you’re complaining about to put things right. This might include by paying compensation, although the amount they can authorise is limited. Visit this page to find out more about compensation.
If either side disagrees with the initial decision, they can ask for a formal decision from one of the service’s ombudsmen. They will review the case, and have the power to make legally binding final decisions.
If you don’t accept the ombudsman’s final decision, you can still take your complaint to court.