09/08/10

By Claire West

· Results may only reveal the “tip of the iceberg”

· Complaints from small businesses growing faster than from consumers

The number of complaints from small businesses about bank loans, has rocketed by 119% in the last 12 months says Aldermore the new British Bank.

496 complaints were made to the Financial Ombudsman (FOS) by small businesses about their bank loans or overdrafts over the last year (to March 31 2010) compared to 226 complaints in the previous twelve months.

Aldermore says that these complaints are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg as only businesses with an annual turnover of less than €2 million euros (approximately £1.8 million) and fewer than ten employees can complain to the FOS.

Aldermore says that the figures prove that there is rapidly growing discontent amongst small businesses over their treatment by the big banks.

Phillip Monks, CEO of Aldermore comments: “Small businesses that we talk to actually feel betrayed when their business is running fine but the bank still decides they are not going to renew their loan facility.”

“Another complaint we hear from companies is that the bank is going to renew their loan facility but only if they pay a huge arrangement fee — a fee they were never asked for when they first took the loan out.”

“Some banks do that knowing the customer might be too worried to shop around.”

“The big banks aren’t happy to admit but their balance sheets are under strain and they are having to knock back perfectly good customers.”

Bank of England statistics confirm that net lending to UK businesses fell by £3.2billion in Q1 2010. Gross lending to businesses has fallen by 38.8% in the same period, £43.3billion in Q1 2009 to just £26.5billion in Q1 2010.

The data obtained by Aldermore also reveals that the number of complaints made against all financial services providers by small businesses has rocketed by 43% in the last 12 months from 3252 in 2008/09 to 4656 in 2009/10 (up to March 31 2010).

Complaints from small businesses rose at a far faster rate than complaints by consumers which rose by 27%, from 124,219 in 2008/09 to 158,356 in 2009/10.

Comments Phillip Monks: “Small businesses have been let down by the big financial institutions. They have never been that well served but these figures show that the banking crisis has led to them getting an even rawer deal.”

“Personally we think it is time that banks started taking care of Small and medium enterprises (SME). They make a lot of money out of SMEs they should show them some loyalty. When an SME’s loan comes up for renewal, maybe the banks should see that as an opportunity to help, not just a one off chance to extract the juiciest fees they can before the customer faints!”

Complaints from small businesses about Current Accounts rose 32% from 2509 in 2008/09 to 3311 in 2009/10.