Plymouth company changes name after 30 years after case of mistaken identity
A FAMILY firm which has traded for 30 years is reluctantly changing its name after a case of mistaken identity which could have cost it dear.
Yealmpton-based Noble Building Services was alerted to a Scottish county court judgement placed against it by credit ratings agencies.
The business had been mistaken for an Aberdeen building firm with a similar sounding name, which was dissolved and struck off the Companies House register.
But Nigel Noble, who runs his business with wife Karen, fears there could still be repercussions for their reputation almost a year after the case of mistaken identity came to light.
The micro-business, a member of the Guild of Master Craftsmen, operates through word of mouth recommendations.
But after being refused a trade account by a plumbing business it had not used before, the business was then turned down trying to secure the lease on a commercial vehicle.
After pursuing the issue, the credit company revealed to Mrs Noble there was a CCJ notice originating from an Aberdeen Court decree against "their" business.
"I wondered what we could have done – we occasionally work further afield, but mainly in Devon," said Mrs Noble.
Correspondence established the court decree had been placed against Nobles Building Services, based in Crimond, Aberdeenshire.
In August 2012, the Nobles received a letter from the Registry Trust – which operates the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines for England and Wales on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, and similar registers for Scotland – admitting to a transcription error by its agent at the court and offering £750 compensation.
The error misplaced an "s" in the actionable company's name.
Had the court compared the firms' Companies House registration numbers and registered addresses against the name recorded in court, the mistake may have come to light.
However, such details are not a mandatory requirement by the courts – in order to protect the interest of litigants with a claim against a sole trader or micro-business only identifiable by name.
"The irony is, that as a registered company, we are required by law to print our company name and number on all paperwork and correspondence," Mrs Noble said.
The Registry Trust Limited (RTL) said it is "looking into" the potential of a new service for litigants to verify the identity of who they wish to sue.
It also reassured the Nobles the CCJ had been "cancelled" and "completely removed" from the files of credit agencies that received details of the original registration.
But when Mrs Noble rang credit agencies she found it had left a "footprint."
"It looked like we had suffered a bad dip," said Mrs Noble.
"We've been quite upset with the knock-on effects and it's been almost as if we are too insignificant to matter. If we were a massive name concern, this might have been considered more important."
The RTL has concluded an investigation at the Nobles' behest and offered the business £1,000 compensation.
In a letter to the Nobles, RTL Consumer Panel member Frances Harrison, who led the investigation, said: "It is possible that future CRAs (credit reference agencies) may put 'Nobles' info into the 'Noble' file if there is only one company registered of the two, so I would advise keeping an eye on this."
Mrs Noble said: "I thought that throughout the process we'd have had a bit more support. They made the mistake and our business was the victim and the paperwork should have been in place to make sure this never happened.
"We've been warned there could still be repercussions.
"We don't want to change our company name as we've worked for so long and hard to build our reputation, but feel we have no choice."
The Nobles are now set to re-register as the Noble Building Company.
A Registry Trust spokesman said: "As soon as we knew there had been a mistake we took steps to put it right. We are very serious about the accuracy of our data.
"The Nobles' case was viewed by our independent consumer panel which recommended compensation. We have accepted the recommendation."