Fine dining restaurant Archies on the Creek closed earlier this year.The owner of a national extended-warranty company appears to have gone to ground, leaving many consumers wondering when their electrical goods – sent in for repair – will be returned.
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Consumer Affairs Victoria has received a “number of” calls from consumers experiencing problems with company U-NITED Warranties.
A Consumer Affairs spokesperson said consumers had reported their goods were being held by the company for repair or replacement, but had not been able to contact the trader to arrange for their return.
‘‘Consumer Affairs Victoria is currently making enquiries to confirm the status of the company and will provide further information as soon as possible,’’ the spokesperson said.
Vern Rickman runs a number of companies under the United Group, including a warranties division – said to be Australia’s largest – along with a maintenance arm and an audiovisual department that has had clients including McDonald’s, My Chemist, Myer and Crown Casino.
At least part of the business is believed to be in trouble, but despite repeated attempts, Fairfax Media has been unable to contact Mr Rickman to verify the status of the company. Calls to the business’ head office go straight to an answering machine.
An $8 million fine dining restaurant in Victoria’s South Gippsland, Archies on the Creek, owned by Mr Rickman, closed earlier this year.
Last year Mr Rickman told MySmallBusiness he was also the major shareholder in PumpTV, a company rolling out small TV advertising screens on petrol bowsers throughout Australia and China. In an interview last year, Mr Rickman said the screens were expected to be viewed by two million people a month within the next two years. A call to PumpTV today was greeted with a hang-up.
Meanwhile, retailers including Myer and Big W have ceased selling warranties through the group, and have have been fielding phone calls from concerned warranty holders.
Myer spokesperson Jo Lynch said the retailer stopped selling extended warranties through United about four weeks ago after becoming aware that customers weren’t able to contact the company.
‘‘We are still trying to determine the extent of outstanding claims but at this point in time have had little information passed on from United,’’ she said.
‘‘Myer is working through a process to locate customer goods that may be currently located with repair agents and transport companies who now have no contact point.’’
Concerned warranty holders should phone Myer’s customer service hotline on 1800 811 611.
Big W stopped selling the extended warranties mid-June, after the warranty company advised them they were experiencing difficult trading conditions, Big W spokesman Benedict Brook said. The retailer has only been selling the warranties through U-NITED since late last year and it is believed no Big W customers are missing electrical goods.
Mr Brook said the retailer was in the process of finding another warranty provider. “In the meantime we will honour any U-NITED warranties that customers have purchased from Big W so customers remain protected.”
The United Group last year had 100 full-time workers and about 3700 sub-contractors. Its head office is in Melbourne outer-suburb Carrum Downs, but the company also has an office in Banksmeadow, New South Wales.
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