When D&D Wines collapsed in 2012, a large number of suppliers from around the world were owed substantial sums of money for wine supplied. Most of them had little prospect of recovering anything. But Australian producer Angove Family Winemakers was in an unusual position. There was circa A$890,000 owing from two UK customers for wine which Angove had supplied. Angove believed it was entitled to that money. D&D’s liquidators said no, it belonged to D&D and should go into the pot for all the creditors. Eventually – after a five year legal battle that went all the way to the UK Supreme Court – Angove’s argument was upheld and they were paid in full.
I represented Angove throughout the litigation, and you can read my account of it in Harpers here.
In the Harpers article I mention two very important practical rules that producers who use UK agents should add to their list of “dos and don’ts”:
- do not – under any circumstances, ever – allow an agent to collect customer payments on your behalf;
- if you have credit insurance – usually a good idea – make sure that the contract documentation and procedures actually used give you effective cover. There’s no point in paying the premiums otherwise.
If your current arrangements with a UK agent might be non-compliant with either of those rules, it would be advisable to assess your exposure, and what steps can be taken to reduce it, without delay.
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