The Financial Ombudsman Service does not expect a huge influx of complaints from small brokers this year despite its widening remit to accept cases from small businesses.

The service was created on 1 December from the merger of five existing ombudsmen including one for the insurance industry.

The insurance ombudsman did not accept complaints from small businesses.

The new service can take most types of complaint from charities and small businesses with a turnover of up to £1m.

In the insurance industry, this means small brokers.

The service cannot deal with cases where the complainant and the person cited in the complaint work in the same business.

This could apply if, say, a small broker complained about its professional indemnity insurer.

The proposed budget for April this year to March 2003 reflects that unit costs for handling complaints have fallen from £730 under the separate ombudsmen to £688 under the new single service.

The budget plans to cap the unit cost at £688 next year as well.

It assumes a similar volume of work next year to this year - handling around 250,000 enquiries and investigating 40,000 disputes.

Projections are made for a possible 10% increase or decrease.