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Engineers destroyed for want of a nail

[30 Sept 2015] A 134-year-old family firm has been destroyed by a mistake in an official document issued by Companies House.

The Cardiff engineering company Taylor & Sons Ltd collapsed a month after Companies House confused it with a similarly named business in Manchester. Officials meant to announce that Taylor & Son Ltd was being wound up but referred to it as Taylor & Sons Ltd.

Companies House corrected the typo within three days but by then rumours had spread via the internet, and the firm lost orders and had credit withdrawn. Its best customer, Tata Steel, withdrew from a £400,000-a-month deal. It also lost contracts worth £3million to build three lifeboat stations.

A judge has ruled that Companies House, which registers British firms for the Department of Business, Skills and Innovation, was responsible for the mistake. Taxpayers will now drop for about £9million to compensate the company’s shareholders. Some 250 people have lost their jobs.

Just as bad as the initial mistake is that Companies House chose to fight the case, wasting even more public money and prolonging the agony of company chiefs. As with mistakes by the NHS, wouldn’t it be better to say at the outset: ‘We screwed up. We apologize. We’ll pay your claim in full.’

[Source: Guardian, 28 January 2015]

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