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The Business Banking Resolution Service (BBRS) was established in 2021 to consider disputes between larger SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and certain banks. It is an independent agency funded by participating banks.

The BBRS covers many firms that are too big to use the Financial Ombudsman Serivce (FOS) for Small Businesses. As well as considering current disputes, until April 2023 it accepted longer-term disputes that had not been resolved.

The BBRS has funding in place until the end of 2023.

Initial expectations and performance to date

Initial expectations about demand for the service had suggested that up to 60,000 historical cases might have been eligible to use the scheme.

By the end of May 2023, the BBRS said it had made awards and settlements in 105 cases, both historical and more recent.

The BBRS reports that it has enabled over £1 million to be paid in financial settlements. It suggests that the total figure is likely to be higher because agreements not directly adjudicated by the BBRS are often confidential.

Views about the future of the service

A review of the service at the end of 2022 recommended:

  • considering the implications of the low volume of cases
  • simplifying and speeding up decision-making process
  • focusing the SME Liaison Panel on what was in the scheme’s remit

In March 2023, the Financial Conduct Authority ran a call for input from interested stakeholders on whether the thresholds for SME access to the FOS were still appropriate.

In the same month, the Chair of the BBRS’s SME Liaison Panel resigned, reporting frustration with what he saw as the inflexibility of the scheme’s approach. The BBRS dissolved the SME Liaison Panel.

In a joint statement on 21 March 2023, the Transparency Task Force, All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Fair Business Banking, SME Alliance and Federation of Small Businesses said that the BBRS had “suffered a crisis of leadership and confidence” and had contravened the Scheme’s Terms of Reference.

William Wragg, Conservative co-Chair of the APPG, described the move as “shockingly cynical”. He suggested that the BBRS should be replaced with a statutory service.

The BBRS says that it has left “no stone unturned” in trying to identify cases and that it is meeting the need it was set up for.

Corrections and clarifications

On 11.07.2023 we added a figure on the number of awards and settlements made by the BBRS. This replaced a previous figure of 49 completed cases. This was to better reflect BBRS’s published figures.

On 20.07.2023 we corrected May 2021 to May 2023 in the same sentence, ‘By the end of May 2021, the BBRS said it had made awards and settlements in 105 cases, both historical and more recent.’

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