Thursday - 24 April 2014

Concerns mount over Cameo

16 April 2012Written by ATG Reporter

The subject of a recent BBC documentary regarding county court judgments, the Midgham firm of fine art auctioneers and valuers are also the subject of non-payment claims and other complaints.

Cameo received some unwelcome publicity when they were featured on the BBC programme The Sheriffs Are Coming. The March 26 daytime show, which follows bailiffs enforcing court payment orders, included local vendor Janet Smith who took action to recoup a county court award against Cameo of more than £4000.

In the past 12 months the firm have been subject to 18 outstanding county court judgments involving sums totaling almost £20,000 - although many people who have won judgments said they were still unable to extract from Cameo the money owed.

ATG has received an increasing number of calls from Cameo vendors who say they remain unpaid for art and antiques sold months ago.

These include Christine Ackling of Swindon whose husband responded to an advertisement for a Cameo valuation day in her area and sold a rare Hampton lever corkscrew for £2400 on June 28, 2011 (an item the auctioneers highlight among their recent successes on their website homepage) and a sheet of signatures from participants in the 1948 FA Cup final for £95 on September 6, 2011. Following numerous phone calls, and suggestions that the cheque would soon be issued, she is still awaiting payment.

Similar allegations have been made against the firm in online forums. The consumer website complaintsboard.com includes a long list of unhappy consignors while local newspaper Newbury Weekly News say they have received more than 70 complaints concerning alleged non-payment, bounced cheques or lost items since highlighting the issue in March.

West Berkshire Council say they have received complaints about the firm and are investigating. Speaking to ATG, trading standards manager Sean Murphy, who urged any disgruntled Cameo clients to contact the department directly, expressed surprise at the firm's consignors' agreement that stipulates vendors will be paid only when all items from an account have been sold - even if the sales in which they appear are months apart.

The terms state: "Cameo can only undertake to settle vendors' accounts between 28 and 35 working days after the sale and subject to receiving payment from the purchaser. Where multiple items are entered accounts will be settled only after all lots have sold or the client has been asked to collect unsold items." In reference to past complaints Cameo have said many are down to people not reading these terms and conditions.

ATG Media online bidding platform the-saleroom.com have suspended Cameo from the site following irregularities over credit card payments. Managing director Anne Somers was concerned to learn that sums of £200-300 had been debited from the accounts of several people who had simply registered as online bidders but not bought at the Midgham saleroom.

"We gave Cameo every opportunity to explain but their explanations weren't substantiated and resolutions weren't delivered. We take our good reputation very seriously. As far as we are aware, in the instances brought to the attention of Cameo by ATG Media, the money has been returned," she said.

Cameo did not return ATG's calls but when invited to respond to the allegations by Newbury Weekly News an unattributed statement read: "We have had dealing with trading standards and to the best of our knowledge have satisfied any outstanding issues - we deal with approx 1500/2000 customers per month and if you expand that by the numbers of lots it's inevitable situations will occur, we obviously do our best to ensure every care is taken to avoid mistakes but will admit they do occasionally happen." 

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ATG Reporter

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