It can cost hundreds of dollars and is supposed to pay for your peace of mind, but instead the customers of Australia's largest extended warranty provider are holding on to worthless pieces of paper.
The elusive Vern Rickman has disappeared, leaving behind a trail of worthless warranties, bankrupt businesses and broken dreams.
Until recently Rickman was king of a diverse empire - from an $8 million wedding venue called Archies on the Creek, to Petrol Pump TV.More stories from Today Tonight
His biggest venture was United Warranties - Australia's largest privately owned provider of extended warranties on electrical goods, offered through some of Australia's biggest retailers, including Myer and Big W.
Like so many shoppers Brad Rouade took out extended warranty insurance on his 50 inch plasma television. It came with a one year manufacturer's warranty, and just to be safe, Rouade forked out the extra.
“When the TV broke in early February I called up United Warranties. They came up and picked up the TV to repair it in early February, and they've had it since,” Rouade said.
United Warranties has gone bust, and somewhere warranty king Rickman has a heap of malfunctioning TVs, washers, driers and computers - supposedly in the throes of being repaired.
Thousands of consumers like Rouade are left waiting and wondering, holding expensive, worthless warranties.
“United Warranties have had my TV for over five months now with no service, no explanation,” Rouade said.
Rickman, his wife and daughter, who are also his business partners, have all gone to ground. Archies on the Creek is closed, with a fire sale selling off its fixtures and fittings - everything from cutlery, crockery, pots and pans, to the mini grand piano have been sold off.
Bride to be Belinda McMahon paid the Rickmans a $1200 deposit to host her dream wedding.
“We'd booked the cake, the photographer, the celebrant - we just don’t have a venue,” McMahon said.
Via email Rickmanhas promised McMahon a refund, but his warranty customers haven't heard a word, and it now seems they may have wasted their money to begin with.
“When a salesperson asks you if you would like to buy an extended warranty, the question you have to ask is ‘am I getting something more than the law already gives me for free’,” David Leermarkers of the Consumer Action Law Centre advised.
“If you go and buy a high quality TV or a fridge, and it ends up breaking down after twelve months, then all of us would expect that a TV or a fridge would last longer than twelve months, so even if the store says ‘sorry we can't help you’, the consumer law protects you in that situation. You can ask for a refund, or repair, or replacement,” Leermarkers said.
However it’s too late for the thousands of customers who trusted Rickman’s United Warranties, who now have no idea where their goods are.
“There's really no answer whatsoever - they've just vanished,” Rouade concluded.Contact details
- Grant Thornton Chartered Accountants - www.grantthornton.com.au
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