Friday, May 11, 2007

Guardian Capital Letters

Taken from the Capital Letters section of the Guardian newspaper website.

Fighting Churchills on the breaches of promise

My wife died, unexpectedly, last November. Just before that happened, I had sent a £295 annual maintenance fee to Churchills Stairlifts which had supplied and fitted the second-hand chairlift she used. We paid £2,009 for it 12 months previously.

After her death, I had no use for the lift - I very much wanted it out. And I had no use for the 2006-07 maintenance contract, which had not started at the time she last used it.

We had been promised a £450 guaranteed buyback and the removal of the stairlift. When I told Churchills what had happened, I was told I would get a maintenance plan refund. But nothing at all has happened. What is going on?

DD Middlesex

You bought the second-hand and very over-priced lift from Churchills Stairlifts PLC, which was run by Craig James Paterson. This firm went into liquidation two months later, ending its £495 buyback. This would have been reduced anyway by the very small print £295 removal fee, leaving £200 - which was built into the price you paid in the first place.

Paterson has been a director of nine dissolved or liquidated companies including Stairlift Rentals, Air Quality, Paterson Security Services and Hi-Security.

When Churchills Stairlifts PLC went bust, the liquidators sold some of the assets (but not the company Aston Martin and helicopter) to an unconnected company, Churchill's Stairlifts UK, run by accountant Robert Kane and ultimately part of a Dutch group.

Mr Kane told Capital Letters that he is working to restore the firm's reputation with a mix of better service and lower cost appliances. He will remove your unwanted stairlift and return your maintenance fee as a goodwill gesture.