Monday 22 January 2018

Credit rating agency accused of defaming firm with false alert

Tim Healy

A COMPANY claims one of the world's best known credit information agencies, Dun and Bradstreet (D&B), defamed it by issuing a false alert that it was on a list of a top 10 of risky companies.

CSI Manufacturing, from Ballymount, in Dublin, provides bespoke signage and labelling for customers including British Airways, BP and Wyeth.

Last year, one of its customers, Northern Ireland-based Thales Air Defence told CSI it had "received an alert from D&B about CSI financial stability", the High Court heard.

It turned out the alert did not refer to CSI and was issued due to an incorrect reference number.

D&B removed the erroneous alert and an attached credit report pending an investigation, but CSI says it repeatedly refused to issue an apology, and/or retraction. In correspondence, D&B's lawyers said there was very limited publication to just one company, Thales, and some "transient limited confusion" with regard to Thales.

CSI then successfully applied for orders, under the 2009 Defamation Act, for a declaration that the publication on the internet was false and defamatory and for orders that D&B publish a correction and be prohibited from further publication.

Yesterday, D&B appealed that decision to High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns who reserved his decision.

The court heard the alert referred to a notification which, when one logged on to D&B's software system, showed a credit report with a table headed "Top Ten companies by Most Risky D&B rating-risk indicator".

CSI finance director Joe Teehan said in an affidavit the credit report from D&B ranked CSI as the third most risky company.

It meant no credit should be extended without obtaining guarantees and also falsely meant CSI was in imminent danger of becoming insolvent, he said. The false alert and report had caused significant damage to the company's business reputation, he added.

Katie Moorcroft, assistant corporate in-house solicitor to Buckinghamshire-based D&B, said in an affidavit the proceedings should be struck out because, as the publication took place in Northern Ireland, the Republic's courts had no jurisdiction in this matter.

It was misleading to suggest the report was published to the wider business community because it was limited to D&B customers who must log on with an ID and password, she said. Following a thorough investigation, it became apparent that only Thales had been provided with an incorrect report, due to an incorrect reference number, she said.

Ms Moorcroft said a declaration under the Defamation Act would not avail CSI in any meaningful way and can only be granted where there is no defence to a claim, which there is in this case.

Irish Independent

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