Three connected vehicle engine reconditioning companies have been wound up by the High Court following an Insolvency Service Investigation.
The three companies: Reconditioned Engines Ltd (REL); Unique Engines Ltd; and 1st Choice Engines Ltd, were the latest in a long line of engine reconditioning companies designed to draw in and rip-off members of the public. REL and UEL both traded out of the same premises, at Units 9-11, Saxon Way, Harmondsworth.
Reconditioned Engines Ltd traded for a period of approximately ten months, between October 2012 and August 2013. The company director, Roy Dart, gave an undertaking to the High Court in June 2013 to place REL into voluntary liquidation by 27 August 2013. However, Mr Dart failed to comply with the undertaking.
At this point, the business of REL was transferred to Unique Engines Ltd (UEL), which continued to trade until it was evicted from its premises in October 2013 for failing to pay rent and other bills. UEL was then abandoned, leaving customer vehicles on site for the landlord and police to repatriate to their owners.
Over 350 complaints received
During their short wrongful trading periods, the companies managed to generate over 350 complaints, with a common theme of grievances spread across the three firms. The most frequent complaints were:
- The unwarranted inflation of quotes once the vehicles were in the company’s possession. Work was also completed to an unsatisfactory standard and vehicles were retained for prolonged periods of time.
- Some of the complaints also included allegations of threats, intimidation and assault on customers by the companies’ employees.
The third and final company in this trio of fraudulent façades was 1st Choice Engines Ltd, which operated out its premises at Unit 5, Perth Industrial Estate, Slough.
The investigation found that the shareholder and supposed director of the company, Gary Driscoll, actually played no part in the management of the company, which was instead managed by Paul Dockerill.
On 16 December 2014, Choice Engines Ltd was placed into provisional liquidation following a winding up petition presented by the Secretary of State. The official receiver appointed by the provisional liquidator closed the business, and on the same day a Thames Valley Police investigation begun. They have executed search warrants at the premises and a number of arrests have been made.
Initial quotes were often doubled
The three companies generated business through the use of shared websites, including:
The business operated by offering low-cost initial quotes relative to the competition. It also provided a comparably cheap nationwide vehicle recovery service.
However, once the vehicles were in the companies’ possession, they effectively held customers to ransom by raising the cost of the quotes, which were often doubled and sometimes more. This practice continued regardless of the actual condition of the engine in question.
If customers refused to accept the inflated quotes, the reconditioning companies would dismantle the engines and leave them in the boots or on the back seats of the customers’ cars. They would then receive a bill for the cost of dismantling the engines.
Those who objected to the highly questionable sales practices and substandard workmanship in cases where the supposed repairs were completed often found themselves on the receiving end of threats, intimidation and even assaults by the staff. Customers were left with very little redress as all three companies operated on a cash-only basis.
Contemptible companies preying on customers
Welcoming the decision to wind up the three companies, David Hill, an Insolvency Service chief investigator, said: “These companies operated in a way designed to draw in and then rip-off investors.
“There should be no doubt that the Insolvency Service will continue to take robust action whenever serious failings are discovered and in particular against contemptible companies as in this case, preying on customers”.
If you need help with a winding up petition call 08000 746 757.