United Warranties unresponsive, operational situation unclear

Resellers find themselves unable to contact warranty provider, prompting insolvency speculation and concerns

Speculation surrounds the future of Victoria-based warranty provider, United Warranties (formerly United Electrical Engineering), after reports that partners and resellers have been unable to contact the company.

The company was endorsed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) as a provider of extended warranty services to the channel in 2007.

Mounting concerns surrounding United in the past week focused on the fact that Myer and Bush Australia were no longer selling and providing extended warranties, respectively, from the company.

Website current.com.au spoke to Myer’s head of corporate affairs about the status of the department store’s warranty offering.

“We were aware that there are issues affecting United, who are our current warranty supplier,” Myer’s general manager of corporate affairs, Jo Lynch told current.com.au. “As a result of that, we’ve ceased the sale of warranties until we’ve resolved those issues.”

Don Card, general manager of competitor, National Warranty Services (NWS), first found out about United's current situation after several resellers and service agents started asking his company whether they had heard anything about United closing.

“This concern and curiosity was brought about by the inability to contact by any phone or email for a very protracted period,” he said. “Weeks passed without answers.”

Although Card claims that United had a tendency in the past to not return phone calls in a timely fashion, the fact that more than four weeks had passed without a reply, in some cases, as well as the increasing number of people complaining about the lack of contact, made Card wonder if there was something wrong at the company.

Card adds that all of these observations come the way of its contacts: NWS has never spoken directly to United.

One company that voiced its concerns to NWS recently was Portacom in Western Australia. It complained about both lack of contact from United, and an alleged sum of money it is owed by the company.

“They contacted us first by email and then phone call,” Card said.

“Many of our resellers and service agents have legacy United warranties and/or have or are doing service work for them.”

Card said Portacom had been worried about United’s status for some time, but its concerns finally hit tipping point this week as rumours of the company’s demise gained traction.

When contacted, Portacom confirmed to ARN that it was experiencing the alleged issues with United, and that it was owed about $7000.

ARN spoke to another company that had dealings with United. Its spokesperson chose to remain anonymous for this article as he felt they were only a “small customer of UEE”.

The signs of trouble for the customer began when the spokesperson rang United on a Monday to ask about a simple warranty card related matter and could not get through on the phone.

“I tried again on Tuesday and then on Wednesday. By that point I started to smell something was up,” he said.

He then asked some industry contacts and partners if they had recently had business with United, but found that only one company had dealt with the warranty provider.

The spokesperson then called United’s New Zealand number and found it to be changed or disconnected.

“I finally called Bush Australia [the marketers behind brands such as Bush, Grundig and iLuv in Australia], because I knew they were a United customer and found the story the secretary gave me stank,” he said.

“That's when I knew they had problems.”

When asked when the business last had tangible contact with United, the spokesperson believes that it was about two months ago when the company had received a bill.

However, he emphasised his company is “not a real heavy user” of United and, as such, no customers had contacted it about being unable to call the warranty provider.

Card said he is not as surprised at this development as he should be. He has already seen it all before.

The anonymous spokesperson also was unsurprised at the measures taken by Myer and Bush in this matter.

“Though, Bush did give me the run around when I pretended to be a ‘stupid end user,’” he said. “They claimed United was backlogged for three to five days, and the secretary wanted to take my details to pass onto United.”

He said the secretary seemed to be “quite agitated” when he declined and hung up instead.

ARN attempted to contact United via the phone number and email provided on its website, but did not receive a reply in time for publication.

At the time of going to press, there was no confirmation regarding United’s operational statues or whether it has closed down permanently.

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