It’s a sad but well-documented fact that the most unscrupulous individuals will happily try to exploit any crisis for their own gain.
So it was in spring 2020, almost as soon as the first COVID-19 lockdown kicked into gear, that there was a wave of reports of pandemic-related email and phone scams, trying on everything from fraudulent PPE sales to ‘phishing’ for personal information through bogus medical registrations.
You couldn’t accuse the UK government of wishing a second national lockdown. In fact, according to critics, the Johnson-led administration is guilty of trying to fend off the inevitable for too long, failing to take the decisive action that just might have nipped the ‘second wave’ in the bud back in September when it was clear cases were rising again.
The government’s reasoning is no secret. It wanted to do everything it possibly could to keep the already battered economy open, fearing the long-term consequences of another significant shut down in trade and commerce.
And yet here we are. After it became clear last week that the regional approach to COVID-19 restrictions wasn’t going to be enough, that transmission had galloped past the worst-case working assumptions, and that the NHS was already close to being overwhelmed in some areas, No 10 felt it had no other choice. Another U-turn, another lockdown, another month (we hope) of all but essential customer-facing businesses being shut.
One of the things suppliers are always advised to do before agreeing to provide any client with goods or services on account is to check their credit rating.
It’s a simple way to increase your own protection against serial defaulters and outright rip-off merchants. If a company or an individual has a good credit score, it means they haven’t got anything in their past that should give you cause for concern about their ability or intention to pay.
It can’t be too often that small suppliers find themselves in agreement with notoriously hard-nosed retail tycoon Mike Ashley, owner of the Sports Direct Group. But on the subject of troubled department store Debenhams’ recovery options, there may be some common ground.
In the past week, Debenhams has secured a £200m refinancing package to help it restructure its debts, cut operating costs and rationalise its store holdings. Mike Ashley and Sports Direct, Debenhams’ biggest shareholder, are vehemently opposed to the plan, even going so far as to write to shareholders alleging misconduct from directors in a bid to get them to block the plans.
New figures exposing the extent of the UK’s late payment culture have revealed that more than 100,000 companies waited an average of 57 days for payment from clients last year - almost double the government’s statutory payment terms.
The research, carried out by insolvency specialist Begbies Traynor, found that one in 10 of these contractors and suppliers went out of business - 1000 firms in total.
New figures from the Insolvency Service show a shocking decline in enforcement actions against unscrupulous businesses since the government’s austerity programme was introduced in 2010.
According to the Service’s regular Enforcement Outcomes updates, the number of interventions to wind up companies in the public interest is set to decline again this year, the fourth consecutive annual fall. Over the longer term, in 2009/10 there were 267 successful petitions to close companies down, compared to just 73 in 2017/18 - a decrease of 73%. In the current year, with just a month to go, there have been just 57 completed actions.
Backers of a project to reboot the classic ZX Spectrum as a handheld games console have been left half a million pounds out of pocket after the developer went to the wall.
As we have previously reported, the project to bring back the cult 80s device launched by Retro Computers Ltd has been dogged with problems in what has become a long-running saga.
The company initially set up a crowdfunding campaign through IndieGoGo to bring the concept to life. It raised £513,000 from more than 4,500 backers, with Retro promising each enthusiast a finished console when production was completed.
Another week, another tale of company administration, job losses and suppliers facing an anxious wait on whether they’ll ever get anything back on unpaid invoices.
The collapse of Flybmi, the small regional airline based at East Midlands Airport, has resulted in the ‘majority’ of the company’s 376 staff being laid off with immediate effect. Following Monarch last year, it is the second UK airline to go under in less than 12 months.
Directors who dissolve companies to write off debts, only to start up near identical businesses shortly after, could be banned and fined under new regulations.
The government has moved to crackdown on so-called ‘phoenix companies’ as part of a raft of changes intended to protect employees and pension holders when companies are shut down.
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.