A 124-year-old family business went kaput within two months because of a typo on a government register. Really, you can’t make this stuff up.
Welsh engineers Taylor & Sons, which was established in 1875, got a shock in February 2009 when Companies House, the UK government’s registrar of companies, recorded the company as having gone bust.
But Taylor & Son had. Note the difference — one had an ‘s’ and the other didn’t. The Telegraph in the UK, reported that while the mistake was caught and corrected three days later, it had done irreparable damage to Taylor & Sons, the business that was still kicking at the time.
Now, a former owner of Taylor & Sons has successfully sued the government, which he says destroyed the business with incorrect spelling.
Yesterday, the British High Court found the government liable for the demise of the business, which could leave taxpayers with a £9 million ($17.2 million) legal bill.
Even though the mistake had been corrected, the false information had already been onsold to other organisations, including credit lenders, which tend not to give money to companies that have been listed as in liquidation.
“We lost all our credibility as all our suppliers thought we were in liquidation. It was like a snowball effect,” former managing director and co-owner Philip Davison-Sebry said. “I was on holiday in the Maldives when I got a message to urgently contact Corus, one of our major clients. They said they weren’t happy at all I was on holiday at a time like this.
“They said we were in liquidation and that the credit agencies had told them. I rang the office to find out what was going on — it was like Armageddon.”
Despite pleas with its clients and suppliers that it was a case of mistaken identity, it was too late. The damage done to Taylor & Sons included losing its best customer, Tata Steel, which was worth £400,000 a month, as well as a potential £3 million pound contract with the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.
At the time of the mistake by the government, Taylor & Sons had employed 250 people. Two months after the typo, it went into administration.