Government appoints small business commissioner to tackle late payments

The Small Business Commissioner would help small businesses handle disputes over late payment and other supply chain practices that hit them especially hard. It would help small firms access advice, support, mediation and conciliation services, and have the power to look into complaints and report on its findings.

This delivers on the Government’s pledge to deliver a small business conciliation service and goes further to ensure we fundamentally tackle unacceptable payment practices that hit small firms.

Small Business Minister Anna Soubry said: “The Government is backing small businesses to grow and create more jobs and opportunity.

“Small businesses are owed £26 billion in late payments and spend millions more chasing down money they have already earned through hard work. This is simply unacceptable – it limits their growth and productivity, and can put an otherwise successful business at risk.

“The Small Business Commissioner will tackle the imbalance of bargaining power between small suppliers and large customers, and encourage them to get round the table and sort out disputes at a fraction of the cost of going to court. It will also provide advice, investigate complaints and see where further action is needed to clamp down on unfair practices.”

This is one of a number of measures to tackle late payment. The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 introduced a reporting requirement for the UK’s largest companies to report on their payment policies and practices.

The Small Business Commissioner will be able to use this data to name and shame those behaving badly and celebrate those leading the way by paying promptly.

Commenting on the proposals for a new Small Business Commissioner, Dr Adam Marshall, Executive Director of Policy and External Affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “While some businesses might use the new Small Business Commissioner to resolve payment disputes, this is far from a silver bullet solution for the longstanding problem of late payment.

“It may help at the margins, but won’t end suppliers’ concerns about losing customers if they attempt to get better terms or recover outstanding amounts.”