Get late payment help from the Small Business Commissioner

 The government-appointed Small Business Commissioner (SBC) has now published detailed guidance on how small businesses can access his services to help with late payment, explains ICAEW Head of Enterprise Clive Lewis.

Details of how to complain to the Small Business Commissioner can be found at www.smallbusinesscommissioner.gov.uk.

To bring your complaint to the SBC you must: 

  •  - have fewer than 50 employees; and 
  •  - be complaining about a customer with 50 or more employees, and a UK office. 

Your complaint usually needs to be about a problem with a payment: 

  •  - that was due within the past 12 months (but not before 6 April 2017); or
  •  - that you’ve already tried to resolve with your customer. 

Sending your complaint to the SBC and how it will be handled 

Email the SBC complaints team with the details. Remember to include your name, business name, address, telephone and email contact details. Your complaint should also include:

  • the customer’s business name, address and contact details; 
  • how much they owe you; 
  • the date payment was due; 
  • what you agreed about payment (say if it’s in a formal contract or not); 
  • a summary of goods or services you’ve supplied or agreed to supply; and 
  • a summary of any attempts you’ve made to resolve the problem – for example, emails or calls to the customer, any attempts to mediate, or any legal action. 

Enquiries should be made to the Commissioner directly by the business affected.

What will happen if I send in my complaint? 

You’ll get an automatic reply, so you know the SBC has received your email. The SBC will follow up within two days to let you know if they can take on your complaint and if more details are required. 

A caseworker is assigned to each case. The caseworker will be in regular contact to update you on progress. The whole process usually takes from four to six weeks. 

The caseworker will consider the evidence from both sides and decide what’s fair. They’ll then write to tell you: 

  • what they’ve decided and why; and 
  • any recommendations they have to resolve the current problem or avoid future problems. 

The SBC’s recommendations are not legally binding, so you can still take other action (for example go to court) if the recommendations don’t help solve the problem. 

However, if the SBC thinks your case is an example that could help change payment practices it might be included in a public report. Details that could damage your business won’t be included.

To find out about how the SBC could help contact him at: enquiries@smallbusinesscommissioner.gov.uk 

If you are a small business that is adversely affected by a payment-related issue submit your complaint to the SBC at: complaints@smallbusinesscommissioner.gov.uk  

For more information go to the SBC website: www.smallbusinesscommissioner.gov.uk

Clive Lewis is ICAEW Head of Enterprise