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?
Perhaps it's time to hand the debt over to a debt collection agency to collect? If you're determined to press on yourself, then in this article we'll explain a number of resources and techniques to uncover whether that business is just avoiding your calls or has shut its doors for ever.
Use our free online Company Check to find out whether a company has gone bust. This time-saving web tool will help you quickly and simply find out the trading status of a company.
Your first step should be our patented Online Company Check Tool (see box above). Simply type in the name of the company you're interested in, select from the list and it will interrogate online resources at Companies House and the London Gazette to bring all of the relevant information together into one place for you.
All Limited Companies or Limited Liability Partnerships have to register their details at Companies House. This organisation is responsible for maintaining a register of all active companies, as well as registering the information companies are legally required to supply, such as annual returns and annual accounts. Companies House then makes this information available to the public.
You can get basic company details, check the company’s current trading status, for example 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 it's not always up to date.
When a company goes into administration, liquidation or recievership, the appointed Insolvency Practicioner is required to post announcements in the London Gazette. Because all Notices of Appointments and Creditors Meetings have to be placed in the Gazette within 7 days, news about the company will be here first. The Gazette has its own search which is a great resource but because it also covers changes to registered office address or ownership, personal bankruptcy notices along with a range of other announcements such as the New Year's honours list and government announcements it can be difficult to find your way around.
For sole traders, 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. Unfortunately, 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!
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, although since these services predominantly rely on information at Companies House, they are often not more up to date.
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.
A credit control function in your business reduces the risk of old debts that turn into bad debts by collecting in payments from suppliers more quickly. Now credit control can be accessed as an outsourced service, making this critical business function available to even the smallest of companies.
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