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information for smaller businesses

This section gives you quick and easy access to the answers to the questions we're most frequently asked by the smaller businesses we cover - from insurance brokers and independent financial advisers (IFAs), to pawnbrokers and retailers with a consumer-credit licence.

we've received a complaint for the first time. What do we need to do?

Smaller businesses covered by the ombudsman service statistically receive complaints only very rarely. So you may not be used to dealing with an unhappy customer.

First of all, remember that complaints happen even in the best-run companies. And most can be sorted out very early on - through good communication and following the procedures.

Our quick guide - helping you resolve complaints - briefly sets out what you need to do if a consumer complains to your business. The procedures largely reflect what is generally held to be good customer service. This includes:

  • carrying out a proper investigation into the complaint;
  • keeping in touch with your customer - and telling them what's happening on their case; and
  • telling your consumer about their right to refer their case to the ombudsman service, if they remain dissatisfied.

You can also watch the video-guide we've made, with the smaller business in mind, to see how the ombudsman service works.

who can I talk to if I have a question about the ombudsman service?

As a business covered by the ombudsman service, you can get in touch with our free technical advice desk for information on a wide range of issues - from how the ombudsman service works, to our approach on specific technical matters.

Drawing on our experience of resolving tens of thousands of financial services complaints, we can give businesses practical help to nip potential problems in the bud - before they turn into full-blown disputes.

But if you have a question about a specific case that has already been allocated to one of our adjudicators for investigation, you should get in touch with that adjudicator.

Our website also has the answers to over a hundred questions that smaller businesses most frequently ask us - including:

"meet the ombudsman" roadshows

We run these roadshows all around the UK - to help businesses with little experience of our service understand:

  • the complaint handling rules;
  • how the ombudsman service operates;
  • how we decide cases; and
  • the help we offer businesses to support their own complaint handling.

For more information see our events for businesses page.

as a small business, can we complain to the ombudsman in our own right - about financial products or services provided by other businesses?

Most people who bring complaints to the Financial Ombudsman Service do so in their personal capacity as individual consumers.

But we can also consider complaints brought by "micro-enterprises" (an EU term covering smaller businesses) - as long as they have an annual turnover or balance sheet of less than two million euros and they have fewer than ten employees.

We handle around 5,000 complaints from smaller businesses each year. We included some case studies - highlighting the issues typically involved in these types of complaints - in a special feature of our newsletter, ombudsman news.

We also take part regularly in trade shows and events such as New Start Wales, New Start Scotland and Business Start-Up expos - to meet people setting up or running their own businesses and to seek their feedback on problems they may have encountered with financial services.

what contact does the ombudsman have with smaller-business trade associations?

We have set up a smaller-business forum involving representatives from over 30 trade associations - ranging from the British Insurance Brokers Association to the National Pawnbrokers Association, the Association of Professional Financial Advisers to the Retail Motor Industry Federation and the Scottish Motor Trade Association.

We also take part in a wide range of events - including conferences and seminars - run by trade associations and networks representing the smaller-business interest.