Archive | December, 2017

AAG ACQUIRE FAST PARTS WALES AND MORE

AAG ACQUIRE FAST PARTS WALES AND MORE

Newport-based factor chain Fast Parts Wales and Peterborough-based Hereward Car and Truck Components are among a list of businesses acquired by Alliance Automotive Group in the last quarter.

Fast Parts Wales is a three branch light vehicle factor business based in South Wales with depots in Abercarn, Cwmbran & Tredegar.  The business was started around 25 years ago by the Travis family and the deal also includes the FastRads cooling system business based in Abercarn. The annual sales are around £9m and prior to the acquisition the business was a member of AAG’s GROUPAUTO buying group.

Hereward Car and Truck Components is another family run business, started in 1983 by the Saddington family. The two-branch factor was a member of the IFA buying group prior to the acquisition by AAG. Annual sales have been around £2.8m.

Single branch factors Macclesfield Motor Factors, DMFX (Darlington) and GD Components (Anglesey) have also been acquired by AAG.

There’s more info in the January issue of CAT Magazine.

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GETTING A NEW ANGLE ON SAXON

GETTING A NEW ANGLE ON SAXON

Claire Seymour shows us some fast-moving products at a brand distributor in Hungerford

POS with current range

As is often the case in Aftermarket Lives visits, I’m admiring a warehouse, but if the truth be told it is probably the least interesting thing about the company that I’m visiting today (though it does have an exceptionally low roof height, which is due to planning restrictions in a residential area, apparently).

What is interesting is the products distributed by Saxon. By our count, the firm distributes 27 brands and hundreds of different products to chain stores and supermarkets, independent retailers and garage forecourts and online vendors alike. Most of the brands are distributed on behalf of other compnies, but some of the names, such as Sakura and Metro Products are wholly owned by Saxon.

With that in mind, it seemed like a good place to come to find out what products are trending and what belongs in the bargain bin. The answer, as I found out, is a little more traditional than you might think.

TREE GROWTH
Curiously, given that hardly anybody smokes in their vehicle these days, the humble air freshener is still the best selling product by volume in the warehouse and by far the best selling brand is Little Trees (nee Magic Tree) which despite the updated name, and slightly more realistic outline of an evergreen, is still essentially the same product that was invented in 1952.

That said, there are dozens of fragrances with names such as ‘Silly Citrus’ and ‘Summer Cotton’ to give the product a novelty each season. However, as Saxon’s Commercial and Products Manager Clair Seymour tells u it is the most traditional scents such as ‘Vanillaroma’ and ‘Black Ice’ that make up the majority of sales, with another long-standing product called ‘New Car Scent’ coming in third place. This struck us as curious – after all, who wants their car smelling of the glues and plastics that give new cars their distinctive smell?

Nonetheless, thousands are packed and shipped out to retailers from the Hungerford depot each day. Some like the contents of the boxes to be mixed, others like them with one ‘flavour’ at a time, while some clients like the trees to be pre- packed into quantities of three or six, which makes them more suitable for online retail. Saxon has done a supply deal with Amazon and the tech giant has a button that allows the consumer an option to ‘subscribe’ to have a regular delivery of a six-pack of Trees automatically sent in the post.

GUARD DOG
Sakura is a traditional accessory shop brand, which since becoming a wholly-owned Saxon brand has adopted a uniform brand identity and packaging style. This is good, because accessories as diverse as car vacuums, wheel trims and luggage straps are sold under the same brand.

Today the brand also offers a lot of light in-car tech: think of USB chargers, power inverters, FM transmitters and the like. The best selling line is none of these though: Indeed, it is a new version of a very old product that is delighting retailers this season, namely a dog guard. The guard differs from others, because it clips on to the head restraint supports on the back seat, rather than being a push-fit. On our visit, there were pallets full of these guards, which along with the related boot liner kit are doing big business for the firm. “It’s amazing the amount we are selling of these guards” said Seymour, explaining that the company looked at how it could improve the design following customer feedback.

OLD SCHOOL
Perhaps one of the most curious examples of a product thought to be obsolete is Stoplock. The bright yellow steel bar was an effective if unsubtle way of stopping joyriders stealing 1980s- era cars. However, the introduction of radio chip keys
made the Stoplock feel like a very twentieth century product, and in line with vehicle thefts, sales volumes declined sharply.

For a while, it looked like the existing stock POS with current range would be run down and the product quietly dropped, but something remarkable happened. A spate of thefts where criminals had managed to steal BMWs by hacking the OBD port led police in the West Midlands to advise motorists with high-end vehicles to start using such a lock.

“It is surprising trend” said Seymour, “But vehicle thefts have increased 12 percent since 2015, reversing years of decline and people were asking for a physical deterrent”.

Sales went up as people, understandably wanted to keep their car safe. Sales received a further boost when another group of wrongdoers worked out how to clone key fobs by using a weak radio signal when in close proximity. This led the company to retool and introduce new products that could fit over the bulge of the airbag on some luxury 4x4s. The company also introduced a neat black carry case to hide the lock in.

There are any number of new options one can have when ordering a new car, but for now it seems that the traditional products are the best.

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WINTER BLUES? GET READY FOR SPRING TIME

WINTER BLUES? GET READY FOR SPRING TIME

New apps and wider distribution make for a better future for spring stockists. CAT Ed Greg Whitaker reports. 

Heavy rollers

As this month’s topic is springs, we thought we’d get on the road to visit two different spring suppliers to find out what they do first hand.

CZECH FACTORY
Our first visit was all the way to the Czech Republic to see the European production facility of KYB. Situated outside the town of Pardubice, two plants produce both coil springs and dampers. Established in 2003, the plants enjoyed large extensions a few years ago, allowing the spring factory to push 2.2m coils springs through the goods out door every year. The capacity is set to rise as extensions built on both plants in the last few years give the company room to grow.

We had a long tour of the spring factory and were fascinated to see how great machines twist bar into springs, which are then tempered and shot-peened before being laser etched and electrostatically coated. On our visit, the products being produced were being made with taper wire, although side- loading (banana) springs and other designs are also produced in the facility. Shot- peening with the correct medium is apparently critical

in producing a strong spring. Units from factories that haven’t been through this process, or have been blasted with the wrong medium can be a third weaker than those that have been correctly produced.

KYB hasn’t been slacking in investing in new technology. While were were in Pardubice we learnt about a new app, which unusually is for garages to show to customers. The app, named Suspension Solutions, is split into two parts. Part one is to help the technician explain to the motorist what issues have been identified with their vehicle’s suspension and which components need to be replaced. It sends the driver a text message with links to video clips which explain the dangers and risks associated with worn shock absorbers, coil springs, mounting and protection components. Part two is for showing the completed repair which a garage has carried out on a customer’s vehicle. It can send a text message to the driver with a before and after photo of the work carried out.

While the app can be viewed on the customer’s phone, garages will also be sent a type of VR headset, which is simply
a frame in which a phone slots in to. The end result is astonishingly good, and an interesting way of involving the customer in the work.

YORKSHIRE HUB
Meanwhile, we were interested to visit Lesjofors’ new facility in Huddersfield. The firm was keen to get its logistics based from one site, and so constructed this site measuring 65,000 sq ft situated right near the motorway network.

On CAT, we love a good warehouse and were fascinated to see how the design allowed use of the full height of the building, which left room for future expansion. Both Kilen and Lesjofors brand springs are stocked in the warehouse (Kilen was acquired by the parent in 1996) and leaf springs, gas struts for boots and bonnets, as well as sports lowering packs
are stocked alongside the regular coil springs.

Slightly less centrally located, the firm has a UK factory in Cornwall. It produced road springs under the Kilen springs brand, while other production takes place in Sweden where both companies originated. The factory doesn’t just produce car springs – indeed, it will produce to order any size and application, ranging from the type of spring found inside a biro, right up to the giant coils found on a mining truck.

Lesjofors has also recently published a phone application. The app allows professional users to search its catalogue by vehicle, with an option to search for country-specific references. You will also be look up technical articles when they’ve been uploaded.

Posted in CAT Features, Steering & SuspensionComments (0)

SUPPLIER UPDATE: WINTER DEALS

SUPPLIER UPDATE: WINTER DEALS

New supply deal for Pro-Align

A couple of important supply deals have been signed this month. First, around-the- wheel kit dealer, Pro-Align, has arranged with diagnostic tool maker Texa to supply the latter’s new aftermarket ADAS system. As the wheel alignment company has a contacts book full of past and existing customers in the crash repair and tyre fitting markets, it seems like an obvious add-on.

Pro-Align will also carry Texa’s range of diagnostic equipment.“Texa is pleased to welcome Pro-Align to its’ distribution network, where they are ideally placed to offer a complete service to OE and professional workshops facing the challenges of repairing newer vehicles fitted with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems,” commented Dave Gordon, Texa’s OE and National Accounts Sales Manager.

Meanwhile, Poland-based supplier of new and remanufactured rotating electrics, AS-PL Limited has struck a deal with the Nexus trading group. The brand’s products will be available through factors that buy with the group, initially through Nexus Automotive’s Central Europe representative. Tomasz Kaszubowski VP of AS-PL said: “When joining the Nexus Automotive Central Europe group, we gain not only the ability to share knowledge and mutual experience. At the same time, we can carry out actions that will improve our competitiveness and contribute to satisfying our customers’ needs.”

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CAT AWARDS 2018:  VOTING NOW OPEN

CAT AWARDS 2018: VOTING NOW OPEN

The Awards have taken place and the winners have been announced. Find out who won what in the March edition of CAT

 

 

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AIMING FOR PERFECTION

AIMING FOR PERFECTION

PROMOTION ARTICLE ON BEHALF OF AISIN GROUP

Aisin braking portfolio

The Aisin group is a diversified global conglomerate with special expertise in materials processing, precision engineering and manufacturing technologies. While the principal activity is the design and manufacture of automotive parts and systems, the group also produces household appliances such as fuel cells and other products related to the energy, lifestyle and wellness sectors.

Guided by the founder’s commitment to “quality first”, Aisin has developed a strong position as a global supplier of premium automotive parts and systems to vehicle manufacturers. In addition to Toyota, which has taken a 24% equity in the company, Aisin is a major supplier to the Volkswagen Group, BMW, Volvo, General Motors, PSA Group, Renault-Nissan, Mitsubishi, Honda, Suzuki and Changan Group.

Aisin Seiki group
Japan-based Aisin has been processing materials and manufacturing premium precision products for more than 70 years. Founded as an aircraft parts manufacturer, the company has now developed into a Fortune Global 500 company with more than 190 subsidiaries and affiliates around the world. The Aisin group is a strong top-10 supplier in the automotive OE and aftermarket industries, and recorded net sales of over 29 billion Euro in the 2016 financial year.

Drive, turn, stop…

The Aisin automotive product range is comprehensive, covering all the principal vehicle functions – driving, turning and braking – and includes drivetrain, clutch, brake, chassis, engine and cooling systems, in addition to vehicle body parts.

The group strives to anticipate customer needs and has invested heavily in the last few years to meet the changing requirements of the automobile industry. Using its expertise in diverse metals and processing technologies, Aisin is now producing lighter vehicle parts – including cast parts for the engine and related areas – helping car manufacturers meet lower fuel consumption and emission standards.

Strong R&D resources

For these new trends, Aisin is able to draw on its impressive worldwide research and development assets. Back in 1970 it was one of the first auto parts manufacturers to construct its own vehicle proving ground equipped with test tracks. Aisin now has three proving grounds worldwide with a variety of track surfaces.

In parallel, state-of-the-art indoor testing facilities enable Aisin to evaluate a wide range of vehicle performance areas including electronic devices, fuel economy exhaust emissions, high-temperature environments and vehicle stability control systems.

Going forward, Aisin aims to continue working with its subsidiaries and customers to anticipate future requirements and fulfil its mission to contribute to the creation of a better auto society and higher standard of living.

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MAINTAINING EMISSION STANDARDS

MAINTAINING EMISSION STANDARDS

Launch DPF Gun

With CO2 emissions on the rise, how are suppliers preparing workshops accordingly?

unless you have your head in the sand, you’ll notice that the tide has turned for emissions and for light diesels in particular. Last month, almost anything registered before 2005 was effectively banned from central London, thanks to the so-called Toxicity Charge. What’s more, these standards are only likely to get tougher, with a diesel emissions check at MOT among many options being mooted by those in power. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: Everyone wants fresh air and there are a number of products to help clean up diesel engines.

One technology that has kept VMs in line with their objective is Exhaust Gas Temperature Sensors (EGTS), designed to protect components exposed to hot exhaust gases from overheating. Julian Goulding, UK Marketing Manager at Delphi elaborates, “Exhaust gas temperature sensors play a crucial part in modern vehicles. From Euro 5b, all diesel vehicles had to have EGTS, with each car having up to six sensors, they’ll become an increasingly important service item.” He adds that these parts can and do fail, which is hardly surprising given the hellish temperatures that they endure. However, an EGTS problem is often misdiagnosed.

TRAINING AND WEB PLATFORMS
To counter this, Goulding suggests workshops can enrol onto a number of training courses in order to repair these systems confidently. Based at its Warwick Centre, the parts maker hosts various programmes, with training that can also be accessed via its’ digital channels; which provides information on fitting sensors and diagnosing faults successfully. Helen Goldingay, UK Marketing and Communications Manager at Hella, concurs, stating that although most garages are up-to-speed with EGTS, attention on newer technology must be brought to the forefront. She expands, “Due to the growth in use of the micro hybrid (start-stop) systems, intelligent battery sensors, which play a crucial in the battery management function that are part and parcel of the system, are clearly a growth area, as are those directly connected with emission controls, like exhaust gas pressure and air quality sensors.

‘Technicians are aware of the growth in the number of sensors that modern vehicles require, but what is more important than actually knowing every sensor itself, is the ability to identify where a fault lies and have the equipment to reinstate the management system once the component has been changed.” To facilitate this, various web platforms have been launched by the company in recent years. This includes Tech World for technicians as well as Partner World for factors and others in the supply chain.

CLEANING AND TESTING

It’s all well and good being able to diagnose faults with these parts, however, carbon build-up on EGR valves, DPF’s and injectors can restrict sensors from detecting problems within the fuel and exhaust system. Carbon build- up or post combustion carbon as it’s otherwise known, is a result of vehicles running in conditions where they can’t reach their full temperature; resulting in heavy quantities of carbon being burnt.

Fortunately, the aftermarket isn’t starved of chemical products to help with this. Various potions that are poured in the fuel or in the crankcase, as well as several machines have come onto the market in recent years. One of the most recent entrants in this sector comes from diagnostic equipment supplier Launch UK. The company has recently launched a device called a DPF Gun as well as various pour-in chemical cleaning products. Richard Collyer, Product and Equipment Specialist at the firm, expands, “Once vehicles are full of carbon, the EGR valve can’t operate properly and can blow electronically. Once this occurs, it will need changing.”

Euro5 BM

FACING FEARS
Akin to this, Mark Blinston Commercial Director at UK manufacturer BM Catalysts, encourages independents to get involved in servicing DPFs themselves, instead of dismantling and sending them off to dealers, which he says can be a ‘costly move’ for the garage. However, there is still a ‘fear’ around this technology that he brings to light, “The general perception is that garages are worried that if they get it wrong, it will be expensive”, he continued, “There’s been a lot of noise about this in the news where the BBC recently done a report revealing a shocking number of vehicles being driven on roads that are not fitted with them. This is one reason why some garages aren’t getting involved.”

To face this fear head on, Blinston explains that the firm has produced some point- of-sale material, training sessions and technical information for technicians. This also goes along with a number of new offerings for its’ core lines of catalytic converters, pressure pipes and DPFs. He concluded, “We have invested in many resources and developments over the last year by adding 245 new part numbers in 2017 covering 30 million vehicles across Europe.”

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BREAKING: ECP PARENT TO ACQUIRE STAHLGRUBER

BREAKING: ECP PARENT TO ACQUIRE STAHLGRUBER

Euro Car Parts’ parent company LKQ Corporation has entered an agreement to acquire Stahlgruber GmbH in a deal valued at roughly €1.5bn.

Stahlgruber is one of Germany’s largest factor chains and, as was discussed at last week’s IAAF conference, it was known to be for sale.

A report in the October issue of CAT highlighted how Stahlgruber recently invested in a vast automatic warehouse using robotics from TGW Logistics. The firm has over 500,000 SKUs and 100,000 clients on its books.

LKQ plans to complete the deal in March or April of next year, subject to usual regulatory approvals.

John S. Quinn CEO of LKQ said: “The LKQ Europe management team and I look forward to working with Stahlgruber’s management team and leveraging our combined best practices to maximize the benefits of scale across the continent.”

Heinz Reiner Reiff, CEO of Stahlgruber Otto Gruber AG, added: “I am very excited about the meaningful benefits that will occur by combining our complementary cultures and industry leading management, which together position Stahlgruber to achieve the continued growth of its European businesses. Our acceptance of LKQ shares as part of the consideration emphasizes our belief in the value of this combination.”

More on this deal as we get it.

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DELPHI AUTOMOTIVE TO BECOME APTIV PLC

DELPHI AUTOMOTIVE TO BECOME APTIV PLC

Following the recent split of Delphi into powertrain and automotive divisions, both departments have taken new names.

The powertrain segment will become Delphi Technologies, while the department formerly known as Delphi Automotive will be called Aptiv PLC.

As aftermarket products are made by Delphi Technologies, the brand will remain on products in factors.

“Despite recent debates around the future of the internal combustion engine, market experts predict that around 95 percent of vehicles on the road will still have an engine in 2025, albeit with increasing degrees of electrification,” said Liam Butterworth, newly appointed CEO, Delphi Technologies.. “This means we have the opportunity to make significant step changes in vehicle performance on the way to a fully electric market. ”

Apiv President and CEO Kevin Clark said: “Aptiv is built on a strong foundation of industry firsts, and has the knowledge, capability, and agility to win with traditional OEM customers and emerging mobility players. It is a remarkable time to be in our industry, and we are very confident about our future.”

Both Aptiv and Delphi Technologies will officially set out their stands as separate entities at CES, held in Las Vegas in January.

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PHOENIX COMPANIES RISING FROM THE ASHES

PHOENIX COMPANIES RISING FROM THE ASHES

It’s a sad fact of life that businesses can and do fail and the fallout can impact upon many – owners, shareholders, employees, customers and suppliers alike. Often there is nothing underhand about the failure – the company is wounded fatally by a lost contract, a massive hike in rent or rates, or has been unable to adapt to changing market conditions.

Occasionally, however, firms are set up to fail through the deliberate actions of their management with a view to defrauding creditors. In certain situations, directors of the failed company turn to what is known as a ‘phoenix’ company.

PHOENIX RISING
‘Phoenixing’, or ‘phoenixism’, are terms that describe the practice of carrying on the same business or trading successively through a series of companies which in turn becomes insolvent – the idea being that a new business rises from the ashes of an old one, like the Phoenix bird of Greek myth, hence the term. Each time this happens, the business of the insolvent company (but not its’ debts), is transferred to a new, but similar, phoenix company, usually through the use of a pre-pack administration. A pre-pack administration involves the business of the liquidated company being sold as a ‘going concern’, (i.e. as an operating business) through a process orchestrated by an appointed insolvency practitioner. The insolvent company then ceases to trade and might enter into formal insolvency proceedings or be dissolved.

Phoenixing often harbours negative connotations, mainly because of the actions of directors who force their companies into insolvency to then purchase back company assets through the new company, leaving behind any liabilities in the insolvent company. The process often involves financial loss being suffered by the creditors of the failed company – a practice that can both leave a nasty taste in the mouth and give phoenix companies a rather bad reputation.

There is no doubt that in rare circumstances, the directors of a company do set out to commit insolvency fraud and so will deliberately reform a business using a phoenix company to avoid paying creditors. They will ensure that the phoenix company is set up so that it appears slightly different from the insolvent company. The business will continue to trade and operate and the creditors of the insolvent company will not usually recover their debts as they remain with the insolvent company – a separate legal entity – and will not be transferred over to the newly formed company. The bad news for creditors and suppliers is that they will have no contractual claim against the new company for debts incurred by the old, defunct, company.

THE LAW SAYS
The governing law of England and Wales allows shareholders, directors and employees of insolvent companies to set up new companies to carry on a similar business, so long as the individuals involved aren’t personally bankrupt or disqualified from acting in the management of a limited company, and the trading name of the new company is not the same or similar to that of the insolvent company. Setting up as a new entity is legal if the process has been managed properly. Entrenched company law principles mean that a limited liability company is a legal entity separate from that of its shareholders and directors. Except in very limited circumstances, the responsibility for debts incurred remain that of the company, subject to the actions of the company directors.

One circumstance where a director can be made personally liable, jointly and severally with the company, for all the relevant debts of the new company, is where they contravene the Insolvency Act 1986 by acting as a director of a company with a prohibited name (i.e. a name which is similar to suggest an association with the previous company’s name). Further, the director will also be liable to a fine or potential imprisonment.

SEEKING SOLACE
So, what can you do if you suspect some sort of insolvency fraud being undertaken by a company that you are dealing with? What happens where you find yourself in the situation where you have supplied a company and your invoice has not been paid? What should you if do you’re also unable to reach anyone at the company to speak to about the money that you are owed?

The company at this point may or may not be insolvent. If the company in question is insolvent, the appointed insolvency practitioner’s function is to investigate the practices of the company and distribute any assets found to the creditors of the business. Predominantly, the underlying assets of the insolvent company are required to be sold at market value and not (deliberately) at an undervalue. You, as a creditor of this business, should have an interest in such investigations and you should speak to and assist the insolvency practitioner where possible.

Company directors owe numerous duties to their company and the key duties are codified in the Companies Act 2006. These include promoting the success of the company, exercising independent judgement, exercising reasonable care, skill and judgement, and avoiding conflicts of interests. Where a company is threatened with or starts to undergo insolvency proceedings, directors not only owe duties to the company, but also to the creditors of the company and a number of provisions of the Insolvency Act 1986 apply in this case.

STRICT RULES
There are strict regulations placed on the directors of an insolvent company and any appointed insolvency practitioner regarding the use of a phoenix company to carry on the business of an insolvent company. The intention of the regulations is to protect the interests of unsecured creditors and to prevent company directors from escaping their obligations. It is a criminal offence under the Insolvency Act to knowingly carry on business with an intention to defraud creditors.

If this is proven, an insolvency practitioner may make the decision that the director is liable to make a contribution to the company’s assets on winding up. Remember, it is legal for a phoenix company to be formed from the insolvency of a prior company. However, any director that is subject to a disqualification order or a bankruptcy order cannot act as a director of the newly formed company. You may suspect that a director of a company that you are dealing with may be acting in breach of a disqualification or bankruptcy order and if this is the case, you should also report this to the Insolvency Service.

DEAL WITH IT
Information is available online, free, at Companies House to any member of the public who wishes to see who is registered as a director of a company that they are dealing with. The name of the company (this may be different from the name with what the company trades as) or the company number will be required to use the Companies House search function.

Despite the losses that can be experienced by a creditor because of the use of a phoenix company that may have been subject to insolvency fraud, the financial failure of a majority of UK companies is not usually as a result of wrong doing nor the misconduct of company directors. Companies can be dissolved or face financial difficulties for a variety of reasons.

One protective solution, obvious as it sounds, is to conduct preliminary investigations on new customers before entering into a trade agreements or offering trade credit. As noted above, check the publicly available register at Companies House for information on company directors and their companies, seek trade references, and also carry out credit checks. Forewarned is forearmed.

It may be worth checking to see whether your supplier contracts have, or possibly should have, clauses which aim to protect your legal ownership of the supplied goods until payment has been made by a customer. Some supplier contracts may include what are known as retention of title clauses which will state that the goods delivered by a supplier remain their property until payment by the customer has been made. Legal advice should be sought as ‘retention of title’ clauses require careful thought and drafting to ensure that they are effective, an event of insolvency should be properly provided for in such terms and conditions in order for a supplier to limit exposure to the risk of non-payment.

WHAT TO BE AWARE OF
Directors who don’t conduct business in line with their legal obligations face potential disqualification from acting as a company director. The Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 prohibits directors whose conduct led to the insolvency of a company from taking on similar roles elsewhere for a prescribed length of time. If, as a creditor, you feel or suspect that a director of the company you are dealing with is conducting their business in an unfit manner, you can report them either to the Insolvency Service, Companies House or the Serious Fraud Office.

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