The FCA has published Consultation Paper 18/3: Consultation on SME access to the Financial Ombudsman Service and Feedback to DP15/7: SMEs as users of financial services (CP18/3).

CP18/3 follows the FCA’s earlier Discussion Paper (Discussion Paper 15/7: Our approach to SMEs as users of financial services) which reviewed whether the regulator’s rules strike the right balance between providing protection for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and avoiding unnecessary requirements on regulated firms.

The FCA states that the proposed changes in CP18/3 will allow a broader range of businesses to refer complaints against financial services firms to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) in order that they can be resolved quickly and informally and at low cost. The FCA’s proposals for small businesses extend access to the FOS to all businesses with fewer than 50 employees, annual turnover of under £6.5m and an annual balance sheet total of under £5m.  The FCA also proposes to expand the eligibility thresholds for charities and trusts so that they are similar to those for small businesses. In addition, the FCA proposes new rules which will allow individuals who have provided personal guarantees or security for certain SMEs or micro-enterprises’ liabilities to refer complaints to the FOS.

The deadline for responding to CP18/3 is 22 April 2018. The FCA intends to publish a Policy Statement containing final rules in summer 2018.

View FCA consults on widening access to the FOS for small businesses, 22 January 2018