You won the order, fulfilled the contract and sent your invoice. Now it’s time for them to pay you they appear to have fallen off the face of the earth. Your calls are never returned, your emails ignored…..you may have heard that the business is ‘struggling’ . You fear the worst, but what can you do to find out what is going on?
Of course, you could submit the overdue invoice to a debt collection service to collect, but if you want to look into it yourself first, read on...
The first place to start is to check on the London Gazette whether the business has gone into administration or liquidation. This is a great tool and also a free service. Here you can search and browse corporate insolvency, changes to registered office address or ownership, personal bankruptcy notices along with a range of other services. There can often be a delay of several weeks between starting the process of a liquidation and the appointment of the liquidator being on record at Companies House. Because all Notices of Appointments and Creditors Meetings have to be placed in the Gazette within 7 days of appointment any news about the company will be here first. Just enter either the Company Registration number or Trading name and if they have had any notices posted about them it will show up.
You can also visit GOV.UK and search the Individual Insolvency Register.
Another place to look is the company’s own website to check whether it is still active. Have a look on the ‘About Us’ & ‘News’ pages to see if there are any announcements. Unfortunatel, for smaller businesses the 'latest news' being two years old is quite common and more likely to be the date of the last revamp of the website than evidence of a business in financial distress.
Social media is also another really useful tool. Check their Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin pages – is the company still posting to these sites or have the pages become inactive? Is anyone posting about the company with their Twitter handle? Are staff members updating to Linkedin with what's going on in the company?
Try a search. If the company's name comes up in the results, check the date of the listing and follow a recent one, or change to the news tab. This is a good way to come across press releases, news items and any other recent discussions that might give you a clue about what's going on.
Check local and national press – especially if it is a larger company. In December 2014, City Link staff and suppliers found out via the news on Christmas Day that the company had gone into administration!
All businesses, whether a Limited Company or a Sole Trader, have to register their details at Companies House. This organisation is responsible for registering new companies,and disolving register the information companies are legally required to supply, and then make that information available to the public.
You can get basic company details, check the company’s current trading status i.e. live or dissolved and even find out any insolvency history such as details of the Administrator, remember though it takes several weeks to get the information on the Register at Companies House so always check the London Gazette first.
Most basic information is available for free, there is a charge for more detailed information such as copies of company accounts. You can also sign up to Monitor a business and receive alerts if there are any changes or activity.
You probably carried out a credit check on the company before you entered into business with them (see our article on how to check a company before you offer them credit). It is worth going back to that report to see if it has been updated with the news that the company has ceased trading.
There are hundreds of online companies who offer credit reports – some are even free. Bear in mind that most of these (particularly the cheap ones) only offer repackaged information that's available from Companies House, so is no more up to date than that.
Some types of business require a license. A restaurant, for example, needs a license from the Local Authority to sell its food and beverages. Contact the local council office having jurisdiction over licensing at the location of the business and inquire about the license status. A non-renewal or cancellation of the license is a good indication that the business itself has folded.
If you confirm your worst fears and find that the company has folded, read our article on what to do if a company goes into administration owing you money.
If the company is not in administration, why not hand over the invoice to a debt recovery specialist? My Credit Controllers has an online debt recovery service - CreditXS - you can even add interest and the fees to the debt to be collected, so it could end up costing you nothing.
How we can Help: