Why SMEs should check for letters providing banking complaint rights

By Dirk Paterson, Customer Director, British Banking Resolution Service

SMEs who have an unresolved complaint with their bank may be eligible for further, free support. These SMEs could benefit from a referral to the Business Banking Resolution Service (BBRS). But they may be missing out because they don’t know what to look out for and the rights the referral provides.

What is the BBRS?

The BBRS is a free, independent dispute resolution option for SME customers of Barclays Bank, Danske Bank, HSBC UK, Lloyds Banking Group, NatWest Group, Santander and Virgin Money. Since its launch, the BBRS has been helping SMEs to tackle a range of business banking complaints, from the simple to the highly complex.

To be eligible for the BBRS, businesses must have a turnover of less than £10m and a balance sheet of less than £7.5m and not be eligible for the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). Complaints must relate to incidents that took place on or after 1 April 2019.

What is a ‘final response letter’?

SMEs who have complained to any of these banks should be provided with a final response about their complaint. If they have not reached a satisfactory resolution, the final response may offer them the opportunity to escalate their case.

Within a bank’s final response letter are referral rights to take a complaint to the FOS or the BBRS, depending on which service the SME is eligible for. The letter represents a bank’s final position on the matter complained about and explains how they have investigated the complaint. It also explains the outcome of the bank’s investigation and that they won’t investigate any further.

After a final response letter is issued there are generally no appeal or escalation options left at the bank. An SME may be happy with the bank’s decision and the outcome regarding their complaint. If the SME is not happy, they can go to FOS or the BBRS within six months of the date of the letter to see if they can help.

What if I don’t have a letter?

There is not always a requirement for an SME to have received a final response letter. As long as they have complained to their bank and the bank has had a reasonable amount of time – around eight weeks – to issue a letter, an SME can complain to the BBRS without receiving a final response letter.

SMEs urged to act now

Customers have only six months from the date of their final response letter to register their case with the BBRS. Many SME owners may have already received a final response letter, referring them to the BBRS, and SMEs should check their correspondence and see if they are eligible to use the BBRS today.

SMEs that have experienced a delay in receiving a final response letter from their bank following a complaint should also get in touch with the BBRS, as it may be able to help.