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Small businesses in Highlands offered dispute resolution advice against coronavirus backdrop


By Hector MacKenzie

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Highland Council trading standards are keen to raise awareness of the role of the Small Business Financial Ombudsman Service in resolving disputes between small and medium-sized businesses (SME’s) and financial service providers which include banks, insurance and money lending businesses.

David MacKenzie, Highland Council trading standards manager explained: “We realise the financial struggle that some SME’s have had recently because of Covid-19 restrictions. A small business's problem can further be compounded, especially if the business is a single-person operation, where they run into a dispute with a financial provider such as a bank or insurance company.”

“At this time of uncertainty and potential hardship for SME’s we wish to promote the complaint resolution facility provided by Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).The Financial Service Ombudsman have many years of experience dealing with financial disputes and can use this knowledge to help businesses resolve complaints fairly and effectively. We feel that such a service could offer real benefits to businesses in the Highlands who may otherwise be struggling with such problems on their own with little or no support.”

Chair of the economy and infrastructure committee, Cllr Trish Robertson, is also encouraging Highland businesses to contact the FSO if they find themselves in dispute with a financial provider. She said: “In light of the Covid outbreak the FSO has provided guidance for Small Businesses on their website on how to take the first steps to resolve a complaint before embarking on formal dispute resolution. In a lot of instances, the complaint may be resolved easily and quickly by following advice from the FOS and this could in turn save the small business in question both time and money.We are raising awareness as SME’s may not be aware that this service is available to them free of charge and can be accessed easily through the FOS website or through their helpline.”

Not only has the FOS the power to settle complaints between small businesses and financial service providers, the FOS, in some instances, can also recommend compensation be paid by a financial provider where there has been a significant financial impact on the SME as a result of their actions or there has been a failure by the financial service provider to act quickly.

SME’s can refer their complaint to The Financial Services Ombudsman for Small Businesses where they are unhappy with how a financial service provider has handled their complaint.A dispute can arise from several financial service providers who provide:

Banking and Payment services – including bank accounts and payment processing services (e.g. late payments)

Borrowing money services – including secured loans/credit cards

Business insurance – including vehicle, commercial property, business protection and legal expenses insurance.

Pensions – including complaints about group personal pensions, small self-administered schemes and executive pension plans.

David MacKenzie added: “Other financial disputes may also be covered by The Financial Ombudsman Service for Small Businesses so we are keen to encourage SME’s in the Highlands to make use of the service and to contact the FOS if in any doubt for further advice.”

Contact details for The Financial Ombudsman Service for Small Businesses can be found at their website at:www.sme.financial-ombudsman.org.uk or by contacting the FOS helpline on telephone number 0800 032 8000 (Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm)

Highland-based businesses can also visit the Highland Council Trading Standards Covid-19 website to access free and confidential advice or by email at: trading.standards@highland.gov.uk.

Further advice to businesses can also be found at Highland Council Trading Standards Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/HCTradingStandards



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