Warranty company silent on return of goods

Warranty company silent on return of goods

THE owner of a national extended-warranty company appears to have gone silent, leaving many consumers wondering when their electrical goods – sent in for repair – will be returned.

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Consumer Affairs Victoria and NSW Fair Trading have received a number of calls from consumers experiencing problems with company U-NITED Warranties, owned by long-time businessman Vern Rickman.

A Consumer Affairs spokeswoman said consumers had reported their goods were being held by the company, which also operates a maintenance area, for repair or replacement, but had not been able to contact the trader to arrange for their return.

Both bodies are making inquiries to confirm the status of the company and say they will provide consumers with information as soon as possible.

Mr Rickman runs a number of companies under the United Group banner, including a warranties division – said to be Australia’s largest – along with the 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, The Age has been unable to contact Mr Rickman to verify the status of the company. Calls to the head office go straight to an answering machine.

A multimillion-dollar 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 The Age 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 2 million people a month within the next two years. A call to PumpTV yesterday was greeted with a hang-up.

Meanwhile, retailers including Myer and Big W have ceased selling warranties through the group, and have been fielding phone calls from concerned warranty holders.

Myer spokeswoman Jo Lynch said the retailer stopped selling extended warranties through U-NITED about a month 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 U-NITED,” 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. However, thousands of customers would be holding the warranties. Mr Brook said the retailer was in the process of finding another provider.

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