The email alert, marked "sent by Dun & Bradstreet", was sent to a US corporation which is the largest customer of East Kilbride-based TPL Labels, a healthy £3 million turnover business with a top credit rating from other sources.
When TPL finally made contact with the customer support department of the firm that sent the message, it was told the alert had been "generated by a US solution". The message referred to TPL as located in "Glasgow, England".
Last night, Patricia Colpitts, spokeswoman for Dun & Bradstreet in New York, said the alert from "Dun & Bradstreet" had possibly come from D & B Credibility Corporation, which D & B had "sold some years ago". The D & B Credibility Corporation also uses "Dun & Bradstreet" branding, and the same DUNS company identification system.
Bob Taylor, chairman and managing director of TPL, a 40-year-old family firm which has 500 industrial customers, said: "I don't know where they have got their information, because it doesn't apply to TPL Labels."
Mr Taylor said: "Initially when I tried to get through on the phone to Dun & Bradstreet, I tried umpteen times with their menus and it was a brick wall. When I did get someone, they said they wouldn't talk to me unless I bought the report on my own company."
TPL only discovered the alert had gone out because its major customer, a US corporation, tipped it off and questioned its supplier. "I believe it is against the terms and conditions of Dun & Bradstreet for them to pass this on to us," Mr Taylor said.
When formal contact was finally made by TPL, a "D & B" customer manager Pete Griffin told the firm: "I have checked our report for your business ref... and we give a 2A1 rating with a failure score of 91 which is completely different from what you describe."
A week after the complaint was made, Mr Griffin responded again: "I can confirm that this was generated by a US solution and I contacted the team that manage this last week to provide me with more information... as I can see no unfavourable data being received."
Mr Taylor said: "What about a retraction? I am getting absolutely nowhere. They are investigating but they haven't promised to do anything. The problem I have is who else has received this, and what damage is it doing to my business?"
He said the customer had been unsettled by the alert, until "we explained it was a cock-up and sent them other credit reports which were all glowing".
Ms Colpitts said: "At this point, we believe this alert was published by D&B Credibility Corporation (DBCC), and not D&B. This is an entity that D&B sold several years ago. However, we have contacted them to resolve this issue."