Owners of small and medium-sized businesses are being urged to contact the new independent and free resolution service to settle long-running banking disputes.

The Business Banking Resolution Service (BBRS), launched in December, is urging businesses with outstanding banking disputes to see if they can apply for support using an online tool at thebbrs.org/can-we-consider-your-case/.

It offers specialist resolution services for disputes dating back to 2001 and is particularly urging business owners with older unresolved complaints to use the service, with a deadline for historical complaint applications of 14 February 2023.

It is estimated that nearly 600,000 SMEs in the UK could qualify for the BBRS’ services, including businesses which have since closed down, merged or been sold.

The BBRS is non-profit, fully independent and free to use. The process is overseen by chief adjudicator Alexandra Marks, a deputy High Court judge and resolves disputes based on what is fair and reasonable for each case.

Businesses going through the service will be assigned a highly skilled dispute resolution specialist, who will act as a single point of contact and offer practical support.

If the BBRS upholds a complaint, it can make a financial or non-financial award against a bank, up to £350,000 for historical cases and £600,000 for contemporary cases, and it can recommend more.

The BBRS was established as part of a voluntary commitment after the Simon Walker Review on SME business banking complaints.

The seven participating banks are Barclays, Danske Bank, HSBC UK, Lloyds Banking Group (including Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland), NatWest Group (including Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest and Ulster Bank Northern Ireland), Santander UK plc, Virgin Money (including Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank).

Alongside the participating banks, the BBRS has been set up in collaboration with representative groups acting on behalf of small and medium-sized businesses.

Liz Barclay, the UK’s small business commissioner and a former CEO at Citizens Advice, said: “Small and mid-sized businesses are the lifeblood of the UK economy, and we need to do all we can to help them recover and thrive after the pandemic.

“The opportunity, particularly for medium-sized firms, to have their, often long-standing, banking complaints settled by an independent, high-quality dispute resolution service could make a real difference to their futures.

“If you think your current firm or a previous one, could benefit, whether you’re an owner or a director, contact the BBRS and see if they can help.”

Dirk Paterson, customer director at BBRS, added: “We want as many businesses as possible – and directors of those no longer operating – to have the opportunity to use the BBRS’ service. This includes businesses, trusts, charities, friendly societies and co-operative societies.

“We urge them to see if they qualify for our help and, if so, to register. If unsure, businesses can check online or contact us to find out more.”

The BBRS can also assess more recent ongoing complaints through its Contemporary Scheme, which covers cases for the period from 1 April 2019 onwards. It is for businesses with turnover up to £10 million a year and total assets up to £7.5 million and which are not eligible to take their complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.