It can take time to get any enterprise, particularly a small business, up and running. And it’s taken nearly two and a half years from then Small Business Minister Anna Soubry announcing the creation of the Small Business Commissioner (“SBC”) to the SBC, Paul Uppal, opening his doors. The SBC’s function is to help small businesses resolve payment disputes with larger businesses and tackle unfair payment practices.
We covered the appointment of Paul Uppal as the first SBC back in October 2017 and have previously blogged about the background issues that prompted the SBC’s creation.
The SBC will handle complaints from small businesses regarding payment issues with larger businesses and, following the determination of a complaint, the SBC will have the ability to “name and shame” large businesses that have not followed fair and reasonable payment practices. Keen followers of the Brodies Corporate blog will remember our post outlining the proposed structure of the complaints scheme from August 2017
Larger organisations already have to publish reports on their payment practices. It’s early days but you can search for the reports so far filed here. That way you can check the payment practices of firms with which you are considering working.
On 14 December 2017 the Regulations covering the scope and scale of the SBC scheme came into force. They give technical guidance on:
- working out whether your business is eligible to bring a complaint under the SBC’s scheme;
- making clear that the small business must engage with the larger one before taking the complaint to the SBC;
- the form and content of a complaint;
- time limits for presenting a complaint;
- the powers and duties of the SBC;
- the factors to be taken into account when determining whether the larger business’ conduct was “fair and reasonable”;
- the factors to be taken into account when determining whether to identify the larger business in a report.
Open for (Small) Business
Now that the SBC’s website is live you can get much of this information in a more user friendly format. The site guides you through the complaints process quite clearly and gives suggestions on other ways that you could attempt to resolve your issue. The site also contains practical tips on how you can deal with an unpaid invoice. Many of the suggestions may seem obvious to more experienced small business owners. However, we can imagine that for someone setting up a micro-business for the first time or just going freelance they will be very helpful.