Retail tycoon Mike Ashley has been quick to position himself as champion of the high street after buying House of Fraser out of administration. But whether suppliers, pension holders and even landlords will be celebrating the takeover is questionable.
The Sports Direct owner snapped up the struggling department chain for £90m just an hour after entered administration last week, vowing to keep open at least 80% of its UK stores open.
The concept of a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ is something of a myth in business. Technically speaking, a verbal understanding between two parties is enforceable under contract law, as long as certain criteria relating to contracts are met.
But there lies the rub. If nothing is ever written down, if everything is done on a nod and a handshake, how do you ever prove things like intention to enter a contract and due consideration by both parties?
For video game fans of a certain vintage, it was a beautiful dream. A plan to reboot the classic ZX Spectrum console of their childhoods, but this time as a handheld device.
The company behind the proposed ZX Spectrum Vega+, Retro Computers Ltd, launched a crowdfunding campaign through IndieGoGo to finance the project. Enthusiasts rushed to back the plans, based on the promise of receiving one of the consoles hot off the production line upon launch. More than half a million pounds was raised in no time.
There have been plenty of stories in recent times of large corporations going bust, leaving a trail of out-of-pocket suppliers and creditors in their wake.
But it would be wrong to assume this is the kind of thing that only happens in the world of big business. Even down at the ‘grassroots’ level of microbusinesses and one-man-bands operating in niche cottage industries, where the principles of trust and your word being your bond are still believed to hold sway, things can go wrong.
The collapse of construction giant Carillion could spell havoc for the UK’s small business economy, the country’s SME trade body has warned.
The massive building services conglomerate has been forced into liquidation with debts in excess of £2bn, putting 20,000 jobs at risk. As a major government contractor, there are immediate concerns over infrastructure and maintenance projects covering schools, hospitals and transport.
New figures have revealed that UK construction contractors have been hit by £700 million in cash retention losses caused by insolvencies in the past three years.
The figures, which come from a report commissioned by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), have rightly been described as ‘shocking’ by the trade body the SEC Group.
The SEC claims that the brunt of those losses have been borne by small sub-contractors who, sitting further down the feeding chain, are less likely to recover monies owed to them if a client or main contractor goes bust.
Along with traffic wardens, politicians, journalists and merchant bankers, debt collection is one of those professions that has a perennial problem with its public image.
But while the unfortunate association between debt collection and burly, menacing men using dubious means to take money from the poor and unfortunate may still persist, as with many things in life, there is significant gap between perception and reality.
The Scottish government has been forced into an embarrassing admission after it was revealed that it fails to pay a fifth of invoices on time. After the late payments figures were made public by the Scottish Labour party, the ruling SNP’s Finance Secretary Derek MacKay had to confirm they were correct during a Parliamentary session at Holyrood.
A brother and sister from Greater Manchester have been convicted of fraud after using a network of sham companies to defraud businesses out of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Mohammed Ali and Samira Saddique set up a string of fake businesses, specialising mainly in so-called debt collection, but in reality the companies were nothing more than a vehicle for advance fee fraud on an industrial scale.
Four scammers from East Lancashire have been jailed for fraud and money laundering offences after using a string of fake debt collection companies to fraudulently obtain thousands of pounds from SME’s to pay fictitious debts.
Thomas Moffett, Elliot Reed, Nancy Shaw and Gary Oliphant were imprisoned at Preston Crown Court on July the 5th 2016.
The group was part of a total of 18 people sentenced for their role in the scam, for offences including conspiring to commit fraud by false representation and money laundering.
The phrase 'no win, no fee' is screamed at you from a hundred adverts a day, usually in relation to personal injury claims, PPI mis-selling and so on, but it is also used in the context of no win, no fee debt collection - meaning you only pay commission to the b2b debt collection company if they are successful in recovering what you are owed.
It's worded all sorts of different ways, so you might also see 'no collection = no commission' on some ads, but it boils down to the same thing - if you don't win back your money from the debtor, then you have nothing to pay.
Dealing with an Insolvent client can kill a profitable business. If your client becomes insolvent it will have a significant knock-on effect, that will impact on your company cashflow, leaving you as a creditor with unpaid invoices that will likely never be paid.
In 2015, more than 100,000 UK businesses found themselves as creditors to an insolvent business, and many will have found their cash flow at serious risk as a result. Any business, irrespective of size, is at risk if their client becomes insolvent but for freelancers and micro-businesses these risks are magnified.
It doesn't seem like rocket science to suggest that if a customer goes bust, you might want to stop supplying them; in fact, if you're doing your credit control properly, you'll probably want to restrict their account long before they publicly declare insolvency.
Under new government plans, due to come into force this October, you might find you are banned from taking such action, once your customer's financial woes are made public knowledge.
When it comes to avoiding bad debt the old adage "prevention is better than cure" is a very useful rule to follow. As we tell any business owner that will listen, it is absolutely imperative that before you extend a customer credit you answer the following questions: