AGGRIEVED small businesses are stepping up their fight for justice from banks accused of interest rate mis-selling.

More than 120 local business owners attended the first Bully-Banks regional conference at the Trouville Hotel in Bournemouth to air their grievances and hear about the campaign to end the scandal.

The mis-selling involves Interest Rate Swap Agreements (IRSAs), a complicated form of derivative sold to small and medium-sized businesses.

Often known as ‘interest rate protection’ they were sold by the UK’s biggest banks on the basis they would protect them from a rise in interest rates.

However, due to the complexities of the product, the customer was often unaware of the significant risk they were taking on.

And some claim they were not given a choice as the product was made a condition of their continued lending.

Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns, Poole MP Robert Syms and Romsey MP Caroline Nokes also attended the conference.

They heard Jeremy Roe, chairman of Bully-Banks, claim that high street banks were being wilfully slow in settling interest rate mis-selling cases.

The Financial Services Auth-ority announced in June that it had found serious failings in the sale of IRSAs to small and medium sized businesses.

Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and RBS have all agreed to provide appropriate redress where mis-selling has occurred but no cases have yet been settled.

Mr Roe said: “Small businesses are still suffering crippling monthly penalty charges or excessive break charges under IRSAs which they simply cannot afford.

“Every month without resolution condemns more business men and women to hardship.”

Mr Burns said he had sympathy for the campaign. “These are people who were sold products they didn’t need and that are now, in some cases, crucifying their businesses.

“It’s another example of the power of banks over ordinary people and, unfortunately, the FSA are dragging their feet over this.”