By Claire West
Under proposals laid in Parliament yesterday, essential suppliers of IT, water, gas, electricity and communications services will be prevented from cutting off supply or charging premium rates while insolvency practitioners seek a viable solution to rescue a business.
Suppliers will be guaranteed payment ahead of others owed money for services supplied during the rescue period and can ask for guarantees of payment from the insolvency practitioner.
Business Minister Jo Swinson said:
Rescuing struggling but viable businesses out of insolvency helps save jobs and improves the likelihood of payment to those owed money. Continued IT and energy supplies are needed for businesses to continue trading while options are sought about their future.
These changes will help struggling businesses during rescue while providing confidence for the suppliers that they will be paid for the essential services they provide.
I would like to thank those sectors who have worked with us to get the balance of these reforms right. By providing greater protections for insolvent companies during rescue, more businesses should be saved.
Under the plans essential suppliers will be prevented from terminating a supply or increasing charges as a result of the insolvency. To safeguard suppliers:
the supplier will be able to seek a personal guarantee from the insolvency practitioner at any time to give them more certainty that the supplies will be paid for
the supplier can apply to the court to terminate their contract on the grounds of hardship
guidance will be issued to insolvency practitioners that they should make contact with essential energy suppliers at the earliest possible time following their appointment to discuss what supply they expect to use
Giles Frampton, R3 president says:
These proposals will make it easier for the insolvency profession to save businesses, save jobs, and get creditors as much of their money back as possible. This is great news for UK plc. The UK insolvency profession is already world leading; these changes will cement that position.
Changes to the terms of supply for insolvent businesses place unnecessary hurdles in the way of business rescue. Without reliable and affordable IT and energy supply, attempts to save a business can be stymied quickly.
The changes are a good example of the adaptability of the UK insolvency regime. Some have called for the wholesale introduction of a US Chapter 11-style regime, but the truth is we can incorporate the best parts of Chapter 11, like these proposals, into existing legislation.
Over time, we would like to see more types of suppliers added to the list of those prevented from trying to steal a march on other creditors and take advantage of their importance to struggling businesses. It will also be important to review the impact of the requirement for Office Holders to give a personal guarantee to suppliers.
The changes will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny before coming into force in October 2015.