Small firms vent anger as banking report goes to minister

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The Competition Commission yesterday finally handed its report on the monopoly it identified in the small business banking sector to the Government, amid accusations that some groups have not been given a fair hearing.

The Forum of Private Business, which represents 25,000 small firms, said it was "grossly unfair" that the investigation was extended over the summer by four months, allowing banks accused of running a "complex monopoly" more time to justify their practices.

Stan Mendham, the Forum's chairman, said that because banks had been allowed more time, and due to the economic downturn after 11 September, reform of banking services for small businesses would be "washed away".

The commission said the Forum and other groups were given adequate chances to put forward their point of view before the report was handed to Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Ms Hewitt, who aims to respond within 10 weeks, can adopt the commission's recommendations, impose her own on the banking sector, or choose to make no changes at all.