A spelling mistake by Companies House has forced a family engineering business under. Taylor & Sons Ltd was a successful engineering firm in Cardiff, with 250 employees, when an administrative blunder by Companies House destroyed the business overnight.
The Metro reported that the problem arose when an administrative assistant was updating the details of a similar-sounding company that had been wound up. The real liquidated company was Taylor and Son Ltd in Manchester. The administrator confused the two firms, and mistakenly indicated that the Cardiff firm was in liquidation.
They corrected the mistake three days later, but by then the damage was already done. The details had been passed onto credit reference agencies, so their suppliers all believed that the company was going down the tubes.
The family fought for compensation through the courts. During the proceedings, according to the Independent, they showed that 3,000 suppliers had ended their contracts with the company within three weeks of the mistake.
Tata Steel, a supplier that provided the firm with £400,000 a month of income, refused to do business with the company, so they lost £3 million of business from the firm. The company was forced into liquidation two months after the mistake had been made, and was finally dissolved in 2014.
The High Court ruled that the failure of the business was due to the mistake by Companies House, and they have been ordered to pay £8.8 million in damages.
The case highlighted that this kind of mistake is incredibly rare. Thankfully insolvency is also growing less common. In the early years of the recession - when this mistake was made - things were particularly desperate. In December 2009 an average of 51 companies were folding every day. In less than two years almost 27,000 businesses had gone into liquidation or been declared insolvent.
New figures have shown that a less punishing financial climate means that in 2014 just 1,790 companies went into administration - the lowest figure since 2004 and 24% fewer than the year earlier. Meanwhile, the number going into receivership fell by 21% to 724, the smallest number since 2007.
However, chartered accountants HW Fisher & Company argue that there remain severe pressures on businesses. Brian Johnson, an insolvency partner says: "Many SMEs who supply large firms are being forced to accept ever longer payment terms for their work, especially in the construction and retail chain sectors. This is putting a severe strain on cash-flow for businesses that are already under pressure."
He added: "Construction - which bore the brunt of the recession more than most - contracted by 1.8% in the last quarter of 2014. With many construction firms already barely surviving on very low margins, this is a real worry. Most companies are feeling the benefit of Britain's return to growth and strong demand, so while fewer firms are going to the wall, these encouraging numbers are far from an unalloyed triumph."