Following a hearing in the High Court, the Insolvency Service has successfully petitioned for the compulsory winding up of Ellis & Co Surveyors Ltd of Stretford, over the misleading claims it made to clients and potential clients regarding business rates reductions.

The firm was established in 2013, and began cold calling businesses seeking instructions to appeal against their business rates liabilities, based upon claims of other successful appeals. However, following complaints from many clients who had signed up on this basis, the Insolvency Service began investigating the company and discovered that the firm’s telephone sales teams and field representatives made exaggerated claims regarding the success of their appeals, in order to win new business.

Between 2013 and 2018 Ellis & Co Surveyors Ltd turned over more than £2.6 million in fees and charges, but the High Court found that many of these instructions were obtained using means that exploited their clients.

The Insolvency Service investigators also discovered that when the company was incorporated in 2013 it appointed a director, but this person was, in fact, a decoy to hide the true identity of the person running the business. Joanne Boslem, who was in fact running Ellis & Co Surveyors Ltd of Stretford, wished to hide her identity because she had previously been involved with two other businesses which were both being wound up in the courts for similar trading activities.

District Judge Obodai ordered that Ellis & Co Surveyors Ltd of Stretford be compulsorily wound up in the public interest, and appointed the Official Receiver as liquidator for the company.

The Insolvency Service is to be congratulated on its investigations here, and on the outcome of the High Court hearing. Sadly, the field of business rates continues to be plagued by scams such as these. It seems that one very undesirable result of high business rates liabilities is that it attracts the unscrupulous to prey upon smaller or poorly-advised businesses. We applaud the efforts of the Insolvency Service here and urge any businesses that feel they may have been subject to business rates scams to contact the Insolvency Service or trading standards officers.