Following the publication of a damning exposé of SaaS Accounting industry pundit Dennis Howlett on The Kernel, and a further confirmation of his conflict of interests from ZDNet we thought now would be a good time to make our position clear.

When Crunch first launched back in 2009 we were the victim of an attack from Dennis after a marketing freelancer we had hired made an incorrect comment about limited company director self assessments during an online discussion. We should have been clearer with this freelancer about their remit and after the incident strict processes were put in place to ensure any comments of an accounting nature are vetted by our experts before posting.

We were puzzled as to why a blogger purporting to support the fledgling online accounting software sector would attack us so viciously, but shortly afterwards we found out he was a shareholder in one of our competitors. More recently it would appear he has entered into a separate sponsorship deal with another competitor.

For the last three years we, and many of our peers, have been subjected to this kind of treatment from Dennis while companies with whom he has a financial relationship enjoy comparatively glowing coverage. Kashflow even went so far as to publicly call him out on his conflict of interest.

Our approach to Dennis since that initial encounter has been largely to ignore him; his site isn’t particularly highly trafficked and his improprieties are well known within the industry.

However recent Google algorithm changes have meant a blog post of his about an “embarrassing Crunch Accounting cock-up” (wherein we filed our Annual Return a few days late) is ranking highly in searches for “Crunch Accounting”. This is, obviously, slightly embarrassing for us – and more importantly is raising questions about the quality of our service.

To assuage any concerns our clients may have – this episode was blown far out of proportion (Companies House do not even impose a fine for delays of this nature. As Dennis admits himself, “it happens”).

The problem arose when a Chartered Accountant sitting on the board of our subsidiary business Crunch Accounting retired (you can read about the reasons for our slightly odd company structure here). He subsequently went on holiday and so could not sign off the changes to our Annual Return until he was back in the country. This could never happen to Crunch clients given the automated checks our software performs and the processes in place to keep our team on top of all filings.

If Dennis had looked into the issue further, or contacted us for comment (as any reputable journalist or analyst would have) we would have been more than happy to explain.

Conflict of Interest

It became clear to us years ago – and hopefully is clear to everyone now – that Dennis has a monumental conflict of interest and should not be styling himself as an independent blogger in our sector.

We have never (save a few rare instances when we have responded to criticism he has levelled at us) and will never have any involvement with Dennis, and we encourage other online accountancy software vendors to similarly disengage him.

Our investor Paul Birch had this to say about Dennis’ activity:

“We provide a much better service than traditional accountants, at a significantly lower price. So we expected attacks, however this has been relentless and damaging. We’re pleased that these dirty tactics have been exposed.”

We love seeing the industry that we have grown up in thrive, but to do so further it requires responsible, unbiased coverage – and we will be wholeheartedly supporting outlets which can provide it.