The Financial Ombudsman’s jurisdiction could be expanded to include larger SMEs.

In the interim report on RBS’s treatment of its SME customers, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) chairman Andrew Bailey said that although the Ombudsman dispute resolution service is currently only available to consumers and micro-businesses, “we are seeking to broaden its scope to provide more SME customers with access to it.”

The Ombudsman abides by the EU definition of micro-businesses as a business with a maximum of 10 employees and a turnover that does not exceed €10m (£8.9m).

While the FCA only sets the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman, without intervening in its operations, Bailey acknowledged the pressures to expand the Authority’s protection remit to protect more businesses.

“The work highlighted a gap in support for smaller businesses with genuine grievances [bank’s] conduct … that could benefit from impartial assessment and quick resolution,” he said.

“The decision to commission the independent review raised expectations among SME business customers that the FCA would also be able to intervene on their behalf in their individual circumstances.”

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“We have received many requests for help and we have heard some very sad stories about the impact of the financial crisis and subsequent events on small business owners’ personal lives.”