Spreadsheet Horror Stories

Spreadsheet errors have contributed to arrests, collapsing businesses, diplomatic incidents and more.

We have compiled, and continue to compile, a list of Spreadsheet Horror stories reported in the media, both online and in traditional outlets. 

There is a good chance that you will have suffered from the knock-on effects of a spreadsheet error, but has it ever been as bad as any of these?

Northern Ireland police officers’ details exposed in ‘monumental’ breach

The Guardian – 8th August, 2023

Spreadsheet posted online contained sensitive data about police officers.

Wrong Winner Declared In Austrian Opposition Party Leadership Election

Washington Post – 6 June, 2023

Austrian Political Party elects the losing candidate due to an Excel Spreadsheet error.

Fishing Boat Diplomacy

ITV News – 29 October, 2021

UK ‘spreadsheet error’ keeping British trawler detained in France, say sources

Bank of England Fine

The Guardian – 20 December, 2021

Standard Chartered fined £46.5m by Bank of England over reporting failures.

Empty Hospital

The Scotsman -20 April, 2022

Hospital lies empty for two years whilst costing NHS trust £1.4m per month.

Research Grants

The Irish Times – 19 October, 2021

Government grants awarded to researchers in error due to spreadsheet mistake

Vaccination Records Leaked

Newswatch 12 – 19 October, 2021
OSP officers’ union hints at legal action after state official accidentally shares state employee vaccination info

Covid Assistance Payments

The Colorado Sun – 25 October, 2021
Colorado’s COVID rent-assistance program may have paid up to $4.4 million in error, audit finds

Incorrect taxes levied

The Gazette – 1 October, 2021
Council charges incorrect taxes

Grant Thornton fined £2.3m

Daily Telegraph – 27 September, 2021
Grant Thornton fined £2.3m for Patisserie Valerie failures

Travel Traffic Lights

The Independent – 24 July, 2021
Is France on the Amber Plus list due to a spreadsheet error?

Canadian Furlough Errors

Vaughan Today – 25 January, 2021
The spreadsheet that Canadian employers were required to fill in to apply for Emergency Wage Support was full of errors.

Flight delays

CBS Chicago – 13 January, 2021
Flight delays caused by spreadsheet error.

Covid Infection Rates

Perry County News – 29 December, 2020
Positivity rates could rise statewide due to miscalculation

Data Security Issues with ICO

Computer Weekly – 7 December, 2020
HMRC referred 11 data security incidents to ICO in 2019-20

ITV breach Ofcom rules

BBC News – 7 December, 2020
ITV breached Ofcom competition rules over postal votes

Law students receive wrong grades.

The Lane Report – 7 December, 2020
Law students receive wrong results from state

Covid Fatalities

Guardian – 25 November, 2020
Data glitch ‘may have led to more than 1,500 Covid deaths in England’

Brazil Health Dept. Data Leak

Tech Times – 26 November, 2020
Brazil’s Health Ministry Password Leak

NHS Patient Data Exposed

Infosecurity Magazine – 27 November, 2020
NHS Error Exposes Data on Hundreds of Patients and Staff

Unreported Covid Cases

The Daily Telegraph – 4 November, 2020
Thousands of positive Covid19 tests go unreported for days due to spreadsheet error

US Voting Fraud Accusations

Politifact – 7 November, 2020
Spreadsheet error causes accusation of voting fraud in US 2020 Presidential election

US Voting Recount Required

Des Moines Register – 6 November, 2020
Vote recount required in US 2020 election after spreadsheet error during copy and paste!

Hospital Opening Delayed

BBC News – 26 August, 2020
Spreadsheet error led to Edinburgh hospital opening delay. https://www.bbc.com

Maths Errors

The Sunday Times – 14 April, 2019
Humble Pi author Matt Parker’s comedy of maths errors. https://www.thetimes.co.uk

School Construction Halted

The Brookings Register – 27 March, 2019
School construction halted due to incorrect bids. https://brookingsregister.com

Patient Data Leaked

Health IT Security – 13 Dec 2018
Patient Data leaked due to emailing of unencrypted spreadsheet.

Council Payment Errors

The Times Record – 07 Dec 2018
City Council Budget & Payment Errors https://www.timesrecord.com

Festival Budget Overspend

The Canberra Times – 23 July 2018
Festival budget overspend due to Excel error https://www.canberratimes.com.au

Council Overspends

Deeside.com – 12 July 2018
Council accidentally breaches its lending limit by £2 million http://www.deeside.com

KPMG Audits Error-ridden

Independent – 03 July 2018
KPMG audits full of spreadsheet errors https://www.independent.co.uk

Wrong Exam Results

Komo News – 19 Feb 2016
Seattle students sent wrong exam results

ESRIG Conference

Financial Times – 21 Jul 2015
FT reports from 16th Annual conference of the European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group in London

Share Trading Suspended

Financial Times Blog ‘Alphaville’ – 29 Jun 2015
Law firm Slater and Gordon share trading suspended due to accidental mis-reporting due to spreadsheet error

Cycling Statistics Wrong

StreetsBlog San Fransisco – 22 Jun 2015
Cycling statistics misreported when traffic lane layouts changed

Evidence Not Supplied

Guardian – 19 Jun 2015
Sydney Siege review not given letter because of spreadsheet tab error

Public Body Overcharges

Melbourne Herald Sun – 25 May 2015
Local Government Association overcharges councils for membership over a 10 year period

WI Miss Buck House Invite

Telegraph – 16 May 2015
WI members miss out on Buck House tea party due to admin spreadsheet error

Business Losses Suffered

Telegraph – 7 Apr 2015
20% of large businesses have suffered losses due to spreadsheet errors.

Spreadsheet Errors cost UK

The Actuary – 8 Apr 2015
Spreadsheet errors prove costly for UK companies

Awards Error

Stuff.co.nz – 2 Apr 2015
Winner of Glammies forced to return trophy

Sharesholders lose $Millions

Wall Street Journal – 16 Oct 2014
Spreadsheet Mistake Costs Tibco Shareholders $100 Million

Austerity Policy Evidence

Guardian – 18 Apr 2013
Austerity policy based on error-strewn economic paper

Cyber Attack Threats

Guardian 4 Apr 2013
Spreadsheet risk and the threat of cyber attacks in finance

Rail Franchising Process

Accounting Web – 10 Oct 2012
West Coast mainline franchising process restarted

Olympic Tickets Over-Sold

Telegraph – 4 Jan 2012
London 2012 Olympics tickets over-sold

Incorrect ONS Figures

Telegraph – 30 Sep 2011
Office for National Statistics releases incorrect figures

Erroneuous Arrest

Telegraph – 1 Nov 2010
Bus driver arrested for stealing fares

MI5 Wasting Time

Guardian – 1 Jul 2011
MI5 track wrong phone numbers

Incorrect Vote Counting

Guardian – 20 Jun 2007
Votes not initially counted in election

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