United Warranties mystery deepens as owner disappears
Tuesday, July 3, 2012/
The owner and chief executive of the extended warranty company United Warranties has gone to ground, leaving retailers and consumers exposed.
Vern Rickman runs a number of companies under the United Group, including what is thought to be Australia’s largest warranties division, which counts McDonald’s, My Chemist, Myer and Crown Casino among its clients.
The group turned over $20 million a year and last year Rickman toldSmartCompany the business was entering a “big growth phase”, with revenue expected to jump to around $50 million in the next few years.
SmartCompany has tried repeatedly to contact Rickman and United, but the chief executive’s mobile telephone is now disconnected and the company’s telephones ring out, while emails remain unanswered.
Rickman and his wife were also behind the $8 million Gippsland fine dining restaurant, Archies on the Creek, which closed its doors in May this year.
However, United Warranties’ Australian Business Number is still listed as active and has a ‘registered’ status with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission
Retailers including Myer and Big W have ceased selling warranties through the group, and have been fielding phone calls from concerned warranty holders.
Myer spokesperson Jo Lynch told SmartCompany the retailer stopped selling extended warranties through United about four weeks ago after customers said they could not contact the warranty provider.
“We are aware of issues currently affecting our extended warranty supplier United. As a result, we have ceased the sale of United warranties,” says Lynch.
“Myer is working to resolve existing customer issues, as we know other retailers are also doing, and working through a solution for customers with warranty claims. We have been assisting customers with claims that have been brought to our attention.”
Lynch says Myer is still trying to determine the extent of outstanding claims but at this point in time has had “little information” from United.
“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,” says Lynch.
Consumer Affairs Victoria has received a number of calls from consumers experiencing problems with United.
The United Group had 100 full-time workers last year and about 3,700 sub-contractors.
This article first appeared at SmartCompany.