Questions of Cash: November 2015

Posted on December 31, 2015 · Posted in The Independent

Q. I was approached in January of 2012 by Harrison Berkeley Ltd with an offer to appeal our small firm’s business rates bill.  I took up the offer at an agreed fee of £1,194, which we paid.  We understood Harrison Berkeley would handle the rates appeal for us, but when we received the rates appeal notice we were unable to contact the company.  Voice mail messages went unanswered, as did recorded delivery letters.  Trading standards officers told us the offices were empty.  We then discovered we had been wrongly advised about our grounds for a rates appeal, which had to be withdrawn.  We took a case to the Small Claims Court, which was challenged by Harrison Berkeley.  We won the case and the court ordered Harrison Berkeley to pay £1510.34 by 12 December, 2013 – which it did not.  We have since pursued an oral examination of Harrison Berkeley, at an additional cost of £522.  Harrison Berkeley has not attended any of the set hearings.   Harrison Berkeley has applied to Companies House to voluntarily dissolve, so we applied for its application to be suspended.  A director of this company has conducted similar business under the name of Webster and Long. VR, by email.

A. Companies House says an application to dissolve Harrison Berkeley was received in February 2013.  You objected to this in March 2013, but your application was rejected on the grounds of lack of evidence.  Your further request to reject the application for dissolution was submitted in January 2015 and, as a result, the dissolution was suspended until March 2015. Companies House says you made a technical error in this request by failing to include the word ‘Limited’ in the company name.  Your application in March still failed to use the company’s full name says Companies House: you were given two weeks in which to make this correction.  You then made a further request, using the correct name and it was agreed to suspend the dissolution until June 2015.  Companies House says you were advised that you would need to write again at least two weeks before the end of the suspension to extend this, but that you failed to do so.  It adds that you failed to provide the necessary evidence by 8 June this year to extend the suspension of the dissolution.  With no further objections lodged, the company was dissolved on 29 September this year.  We also contacted the Insolvency Service, which says that although you contacted it in both January 2014 and March 2015 requesting that it prevent the company being dissolved, it does not have the power to do this.  The Insolvency Service does have the power in exceptional circumstances to reinstate a company where there is a public interest in doing so.  A person who has a potential legal claim against the company, or who is a creditor of the company can make this request.  We took advice from law lecturer Ian Snaith, a specialist in company law, who recommends that you lodge a complaint with the Insolvency Service “so that they can decide whether to launch an investigation of the company and its directors”.  He adds: “Remedies against directors are usually triggered when the company is wound up.”  Webster and Long has now also requested to be dissolved, though it continues to have an apparently functioning website. Our email and voicemail messages to Webster and Long went unanswered. We note that a director of Harrison Berkeley and Webster and Long registered a new company, Melville Consulting, in September of this year, which is also based in Manchester.  We have been unable to contact Melville Consulting, which does not have a website and is not listed in the phone directory, or the director concerned, who is also not listed in the phone directory.

Q. I am a supporter of voluntary groups providing aid to Palestinians.  Three groups that I and my friends support – the Liverpool Friends of Bil’in, the Abu Bakr Scholarship Fund and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – have been told by The Co-operative Bank they cannot bank with them.  I am angry and upset about this.  PF, Manchester.

A. A spokesman for The Co-operative Bank said: “In common with all banks, we have to perform due diligence on our accounts to ensure they comply with anti-money laundering obligations…. For customers who operate in, or send money to, high risk locations throughout the world, advanced due diligence checks are required by all banks to ensure that funds do not inadvertently fund illegal or other proscribed activities. Depending on the particular circumstances of an individual or an organisation, it may not be possible for us to complete these checks to our satisfaction.  The decision to close a small number of accounts is the inevitable result of this process.”  We requested clarification as to which transfer destinations are affected by this.  The bank’s spokesman responded: “These are countries that are subject to financial sanctions by UK, EU, US governments and The United Nations, or those in which sanctioned organisations operate as well as those that can be considered at high risk of bribery and corruption or have links to terrorist activities.”  He added: “We treat each case its own merits, based on the structure of an organisation, the governance and activities it undertakes as well as the countries and territories in which it operates.”

A. I was interested to see your recent item on Sports Direct (Questions of Cash, 8 August, 2015) as I bought a pair of golf shoes from them only to find they let in water. The shop refused to accept them back, saying they were not sold as waterproof, but for dry weather use.  There was nothing on the display to indicate this.  My email complaints either ignored my question or went unanswered.  They were sold to me for £34.99, down from £59.99.  GF, Edinburgh.

A. Sports Direct reiterates that the shoes were not sold as waterproof.  It offers to have them inspected by your local shop manager to determine if they have a manufacturing fault.