Posted: Fri 17th Feb 2023
The government has launched a review into the effectiveness of the Small Business Commissioner (SBC), a role created to help small businesses deal with unpaid invoices from big customers.
Created in 2016, the SBC, who is currently broadcaster and writer Liz Barclay, provides support to small companies in payment disputes with their larger business customers.
The SBC has no legal powers to force firms to settle their bills and can only investigate poor payment practice when a small business complains directly.
However, she can make non-binding recommendations as to how the parties could resolve their disputes.
The SBC has so far got back around £8m in unpaid invoices for small companies. Figures estimate that a total £23.4bn in outstanding invoices is currently owed to UK businesses.
The review, part of the government's wider payment and cash flow review, is looking at the effectiveness of the SBC and considering whether the office needs more powers to investigate poor payment practice such as being able to do so following the submission of anonymous information.
Evidence from a previous consultation in 2020 suggested existing SBC powers were seen by many as not being strong enough.
In the new review the government says the SBC receives fewer complaints than expected which it says is likely due to small businesses wanting to avoid conflict with significant and influential customers.
Anyone with an interest in the SBC's work, including small and micro businesses, can submit evidence by considering the questions here and responding here by 28 April.
The government is also seeking feedback on the effectiveness of rules that require big firms to report data on how quickly they pay suppliers.
Enterprise Nation is taking part in the payment and cashflow review by running events for small business owners to share feedback on late payment with government officials. You can register for the remaining events below:
22 February at 10am: Transparency and government levers including the role of the Small Business Commissioner (online)
23 February at 10am: Late payment and technology (in-person event in central London)
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