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Is Your Wholesaler up to Scratch? [5] – Company & VAT Numbers

The legal situation differs from country to country, but any wholesaler seeking to do business with you should be up front about who they are. In the UK and Ireland, it’s a legal requirement that every company display full contact information on their website, as well as their company number.

The absence of this information is a very bad sign.

Once you’ve had a look around a company’s website and decided that you like their stock enough to consider a first order, it’s time to seek out that contact and company information. It’s most likely to be found on their contact page, or possibly on the footer of each page of their website, and will usually contain their official company ID number, along with their VAT number.

What does the absence of these numbers mean?

A missing company number does not necessarily mean that the business in question is not legitimate, as they may be a small business or sole trader who has not yet formed a company. A missing VAT number usually indicates that the business is even smaller still, and has yet to reach the turnover threshold that warrants registering for VAT.

Neither of these things are deal breakers, but both do provide excellent insight into the size of your potential new supplier. Should you really be doing business with a supplier whose ‘company’ is even smaller than yours? Can you rely on them to have sufficient stock levels to meet your future requirements when things get busy? Probably not.

After you’ve found a company number and a VAT number, you should verify that they are authentic. Most countries have a central website or service that allows you to look up a company number (Companies House in the UK), and a similar service that lets you enter a VAT number and a company name to see if the two match up.

If you find a problem here, or are unable to verify the details provided, you need to reassess that supplier. A simple email querying their details would not be out of order. Most companies will be on the level, and only too happy to address any questions you have. If they prove difficult to deal with or dodge your questions, walk away.

It’s worth highlighting that a trading name and a company name often differ. Your supplier could be trading under a name such as “Supreme Wholesale” while their company name could be something different and generic. A company name and a website name do not need to match, but the company name and number do need to be there somewhere.

Rule 5: Is there a verifiable company number and VAT number on the supplier’s website?

29 Jul 2013

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