Beset by allegations of non-payment and credit card irregularities, Berkshire saleroom Cameo Fine Art Auctioneers have suspended trading.
On Thursday, April 26, a notice on
company stationery was pinned to the door reading: "Due to the
adverse publicity and a police investigation into a former member
of staff Cameo has suspended business until the end of
The company website went down on the
same day, shortly after a 558-lot sale of antiques and collectables
held in Midgham on Tuesday, April 24 and a week in advance of a
485-lot sale of entertainment memorabilia scheduled for May 1. The
catalogue for the latter was listed on invaluable.com but it is
understood the sale did not go ahead.
In recent months Cameo have come under
fire from vendors who say they remain unpaid for art and antiques
sold months ago or others who say their credit cards were debited
by Cameo without authorisation.
The firm, much criticised in
the Newbury Weekly News, also received
unwelcome publicity when they were the subject of The
Sheriffs Are Coming, a BBC documentary regarding county
After the issue was highlighted in ATG
No 2037, April 21, Cameo proprietor and sole trader Jon King issued
a statement via online bidding platform Easy Live Auction, in which
he described the ATG coverage as
At the time Easy Live declared
themselves reassured by Cameo's explanations although, shortly
after hosting the £30,000 sale on April 24 they, too, were unable
to contact the firm. They immediately contacted Trading
Mr King's statement, dated April 19,
had taken issue with recent press coverage of the firm. "It seems
to me that sometimes when the press or public get hold of a
negative it is blown up out of all proportion," he
"We have thrived to build an honest
and reliable company and have thousands of happy, satisfied
customers. One piece of bad press should not be allowed to escalate
to such a level that it damages a business."
to ATG's report that the firm have been subject
to 18 outstanding county court judgments in the past 12 months King
said: "It is very interesting that the article states we have CCJs
totalling £20,000 but there is no reference to any money owed to
us. Why is the article not balanced?"
He went on to say the firm had "no
outstanding issues" with West Berkshire Council Trading Standards -
although this claim was firmly denied by the consumer watchdog who,
on April 25, confirmed to ATG they were still
investigating the firm.
Spokesman Sean Murphy again urged
anyone with a complaint to contact West Berkshire Council's trading
standards department via email firstname.lastname@example.org and
headline the correspondence 'Cameo.'
The reference in the company notice to
a "police investigation into a former member of staff" is
understood to relate to allegations of irregularities over credit
ATG Media's online bidding platform
the-saleroom.com suspended Cameo from the site in March when it
emerged that sums of £200-400 had been debited from the accounts of
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," said managing director Anne
Since that time ATG have
heard from many other people who were unaware they had been charged
and those who had contacted the auctioneers about the unauthorised
payments but had yet to receive a refund.
Cameo's Easy Live statement commented:
"We had a situation where a small number of bidders were wrongly
charged for items they had not bid for. This was an administrative
error and corrected as soon as the mistake was found. [It is]
strange how customers never complain when they have been
What next for Cameo?
According to the Companies House
website, a new firm, Cameo Auctioneers Limited, with a registered
address in Pewsey, Wiltshire was incorporated on April 12,
Mrs Beverley King and Mrs Samantha
Norgrove, both of Abingdon, Oxfordshire are listed as
A search of the Companies House site
finds a company of the same name that traded between June 2005 and
November 2009 and another by the name of Cameo Fine Art Auctioneers
Ltd incorporated in December 2008 and dissolved in March