Of all the goals SME Alliance and its members have had over the last two years, the most important has been to try and re-establish 'Access To Justice' and an equitable playing field for SMEs abused by financial institutions. A decrease in legal aid, spiralling court costs and prohibitive legal fees for small business owners versus banks with deep pockets has left many feeling they have been priced out of the justice system.
The recent expose by the BBC and BuzzFeed evidencing what was happening in RBS GRG and recent revelations from the criminal trial regarding events originating at HBOS Reading, have brought to the fore, yet again, how misconduct in the financial sector is damaging SMEs, the communities who rely on them for jobs and the economy. Many of our members have been victims of so called 'business support units'. More still have been damaged by the deliberate mis-selling of unethical financial products. SMEs have been fighting a steep uphill battle and SME Alliance was formed primarily to support business owners in these positions and to lobby for change.
To this end we have been working with George Kerevan MP and his team on the APPG for Fair Business Banking. The APPG very recently tabled a draft motion calling for the creation of a sustainable platform for commercial financial dispute resolution:
That this house notes the statements presented to the Treasury Select Committee on 20 July 2016 by Dr Andrew Bailey of the FCA; endorses his statement that the ad hoc creation of a compensation scheme within the FCA was not entirely successful and lacked perceived authority to treat customers with fair outcomes; believes that the recent headlines and allegations in the press against RBS will lead to pressure for a similar scheme; notes that many debates in this house over the years have focused on similar subjects with different lenders; believes that we must create not ad hoc compensation schemes, but a long term, effective and timely dispute resolution mechanism for both regulated and unregulated financial contracts; and calls on the FCA, BEIS and the MoJ to work with the APPG on Fair Business Banking to create sustainable platform for commercial financial dispute resolution.
We are happy to announce it was confirmed on Tuesday 1st November the Debate will happen between the 24th November and 14th December 2016.
We'd like to thank George Kerevan MP, Calum Kerr MP and their team for tabling the motion as well as the many MPs who supported it. We'd also like to thank Heather Buchanan and her team who have worked hard to make this happen. And, of course, our own members who have actively canvassed support from their MPs.
While we know this Debate will not bring about overnight solutions to the many conflicts between the financial sector and the SME sector, it is a real step forward in the right direction. It has started with this acknowledgement in Parliament there is a very serious issue to be resolved in the interests of the many SMEs damaged by unethical and, in some cases, criminal conduct in banks. This is not about a specific mis-sold product - it's about the bigger picture that has long been concealed from the Court of Public Opinion. Neither is this yet another seemingly good opportunity that will end up watered down by the interests of the financial sector and its supporters. Many lessons have been learned since the FCA IRHP Redress Scheme.
After many years of stalemate for some SME Alliance members, we are looking forward to the debate and will give it our full support.
3rd November 2016
For further info: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Nikki on 07519 505276 or 01223 779690.