The Business Banking Resolution Service promises to help resolve current – and past – disputes with banks.
A new free service to resolve disputes between small and medium sized businesses and their banks has been launched called the Business Banking Resolution Service.
In this Q&A with the chair, Lewis Shand Smith, find out how the service could benefit you and the businesses you advise.
What is the BBRS?
The Business Banking Resolution Service (BBRS) is a new, independent organisation set up to resolve disputes between eligible small and medium sized businesses and participating banks.
Who are the participating banks?
The participating banks are Barclays, Danske Bank, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group (including Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland), RBS Group (including Royal Bank of Scotland, Natwest and Ulster Bank Northern Ireland), Santander UK plc and Virgin Money (including Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank).
What should accountancy practitioners be most aware of?
Our service is free and is available to both historic and contemporary cases. We can look at complaints dating back to 1 December 2001. The service will launch in the early autumn.
How can SMEs use the BBRS services?
The service is free and easy to use; businesses can register their interest in using the BBRS on our website www.thebbrs.org
Why should SMEs consider using the BBRS?
Using an ‘alternative dispute resolution’ approach to settling claims has the potential to be cheaper and less stressful than existing complaints-handling techniques or going to court. The BBRS is fully independent and will treat all customers as individuals, taking a bespoke approach to each case in order to achieve a fair and reasonable outcome. In these difficult times it's more important than ever that businesses have access to a fair, transparent service.
Who is the service available to and will the BBRS be available to those whose complaints arise from Covid-19?
We can accept complaints from businesses registered in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and, yes, we will be able to consider disputes in the wake of the pandemic crisis.
We will consider complaints being raised by or on behalf of a number of corporate structures, including sole traders, limited companies, partnerships, trusts, charities, and community interest companies. However, businesses must first have complained to their bank within required timescales and given the bank concerned the opportunity first to resolve the dispute.
We published a report in May on the impact of Covid-19 loans. Government-backed loan schemes have provided a lifeline. But it is critical for customers to understand that, just like any other loan, they will be required to repay 100% of the money they borrow under these new schemes. There needs to be clarity about that now to avoid the risk of storing up problems for the future. The banks have been working hard to support many of their SME customers in this context. The BBRS will not have access to a ‘magic wand’ to wish away unpaid loans.
But, even with that message out there, we equally need to be clear that the Covid-19 loans and inevitable economic pressures ahead have the potential to give rise to a significant volume of complaints. The regulatory framework for the Government’s pandemic-related loan schemes is yet to be determined, but the BBRS is ideally placed to consider complaints - where they are within our scope - that cannot be resolved by participating banks themselves.
Can you explain what the Live Pilot is and its purpose?
We must get this service right, especially in light of the current circumstances. The Live Pilot – which is currently reviewing over 40 cases - is designed to help us do that by helping us test the approach we want to take and achieve fair and reasonable outcomes on a transparent basis.
What have you found from the Live Pilot to date?
Interim findings from our Live Pilot study have confirmed the need for a deep rethink of the system of how SME disputes with banks are handled. We need a human and flexible approach that takes the stress and cost out of seeking to resolve complaints. This is exactly what the BBRS service will do.
How is the BBRS different to the FOS?
The FOS deals in part with cases brought by smaller businesses but it is primarily for consumers. It is a much larger organisation and it focuses on investigative adjudication. The BBRS is for eligible businesses that are too large for the FOS. We will do investigative adjudication, but we will wherever possible offer formal and informal dispute resolution of various kinds. We are smaller, but because of that we can be more flexible in pursuing those types of dispute resolution that might best settle each case.
When will the BBRS launch?
The Financial Conduct Authority and the Treasury have made it clear they see the scheme as playing a real role in the post Covid-19 recovery and they have made it clear they want us launched by early autumn which is what we’re working to.
How can I find out more about the BBRS? Are you hosting any events?
The BBRS leadership team are hosting webinars on Thursday 4 June and Tuesday 16 June. You can register to attend on our website at www.thebbrs.org/webinars