Accessing the Business Banking Resolution Service

Following on from our recent article about the launch of the Business Banking Resolution Service ("BBRS" / the "Service") on 15 February 2021, in this article we look at how the BBRS will work in practice – for complainant and bank. We look at the eligibility criteria that businesses will generally have to meet in order to qualify, including relevant deadlines and financial criteria.

For those considering when they should use the BBRS to resolve a complaint, we have also looked at how it compares to other dispute forums such as the Financial Ombudsman Service and formal litigation through the court system.  

Participant Banks

The BBRS will only consider complaints which are made by customers of the participating banks. At present, the "Participating Banks" are:

  • Barclays Bank plc and Barclays Bank UK plc;
  • Danske Bank;
  • HSBC UK Bank plc;
  • Lloyds Banking Group (Lloyds Bank plc and Bank of Scotland plc);
  • NatWest Group (including The Royal Bank of Scotland Plc, National Westminster Bank plc, Coutts & Company and Ulster Bank Limited (Northern Ireland));
  • Santander UK plc; and
  • Virgin Money (including Clydesdale Bank plc and Yorkshire Bank),

The BBRS anticipates that more banks may choose to subscribe to the Service in due course.

The complaint must be about a banking service, such as lending or payment services, which was provided by one of the Participating Banks.

There are two schemes available for complaints, the Historical Scheme (for matters which took place between 1 December 2001 and 31 March 2019) and the Contemporary Scheme (for matters which took place on or after 1 April 2019).

Eligible Complainants

The schemes are available to:

  • sole traders or business organisations (including companies, partnerships, trusts, charities, friendly societies or other co-operative societies, formed or registered in the UK) that are – or were at the time of the matters alleged in the complaint – a business customer of the Participating Bank;
  • personal guarantors of one of the above; or
  • recognised assignees of one of the above, i.e. a partner or director.

The Historical Scheme is also available to dissolved business entities that were, at the time of the matters alleged in the complaint, a business customer of the Participating Bank.

In order for the BBRS to consider the complaint, the complainant must also meet the financial criteria at the time of the complaint. The financial criteria vary depending on which scheme applies, Historical or Contemporary. UK businesses will have to meet the following criteria:

Historical Scheme Time Limits

Under the Historical Scheme, the complainant must have made a complaint to the bank within the following timeframes:

  • incidents which occurred on or before 1 October 2017 – by the earlier of:
    • 1 April 2019; and
    • the date six years after the incident; or
    • (if later) three years after the complainant became aware (or ought reasonably to have been aware) of the incident,

(Scheme rule EL 2(1)(h)(i)).

  • incidents which occurred after 1 October 2017 and before 1 April 2019 - within 18 months of the incident (Scheme rule EL 2(1)(h)(ii)).

The closing date for new complaints under the Historical Scheme is 14 February 2023 (Scheme rule EL 2(1)(f)).

Contemporary Scheme Time Limits

Under the Contemporary Scheme, the complainant must refer the complaint to the BBRS either:

  • within six months of the date the bank notifies the complainant that the BBRS may be able to consider their complaint (Scheme rule EL 4(2)(a)); OR
  • within three years after the date they became aware (or ought reasonably to have been aware) of the incident (if later) (Scheme rule EL 4(2)(b)(ii)).

How will complaints be dealt with?

The typical process is as follows:

  1. The business will register its complaint with the BBRS. The BBRS will need details about the complaint as well as information about the business;
  2. Unless the case is obviously ineligible (for example, the complaint is against a bank not participating in the BBRS Scheme), the BBRS will assign the business a Customer Champion who will be the consistent contact throughout the process, providing the business with support. The Customer Champion will conduct an initial eligibility check and unless there is reason to believe otherwise, the complaint will be deemed eligible but its eligibility will be kept under review throughout the BBRS process;
  3. The business will then be able to submit further details about its complaint and provide pertinent documents;
  4. The BBRS will identify the relevant elements of the complaint and contact the bank;
  5. The bank will respond and provide their own evidence which will be available for review and to respond to. The BBRS will also provide the bank with the business' evidence at the same time and it will be able to comment on the same; and
  6. The default method for resolving complaints under the Scheme is 'investigative adjudication', where a case assessor decides what is fair and reasonable based on the evidence provided. However, the parties are, at any point, able to agree to resolve the complaint using alternative methods such as mediation or conciliation. The Customer Champion will discuss these options with the business. At any time during the process the parties may reach a settlement to resolve the complaint and the parties are very much encouraged to engage proactively in the process to that end.

How does the BBRS compare to other dispute resolution procedures?

When it is an appropriate forum for complaints?

Provided that the relevant criteria are met, the BBRS may be a suitable alternative to court proceedings for businesses (and banks) looking to manage their legal spend. Court proceedings can often be lengthy and expensive, however, the BBRS has been set up so that complainants do not necessarily need legal advisers. Parties can still seek legal advice if they choose to (and will usually bear the cost).

Even if all of the criteria are not met, a complainant can still register their complaint and the BBRS may look at it if the complainant and bank agree that they can. Therefore, the BBRS may be viewed as a beneficial ADR forum, where the structure and tools available are valued to resolve otherwise unresolvable disputes. As such, our next article will look at the Service's future role in the landscape of banking disputes.

Get in touch

For more information on the BBRS, dispute resolution or related issues, please speak to your usual Foot Anstey contact or speak to a member of our Dispute Resolution team. 

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