Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Most complaints stem from excessive delays in delivering goods, but include complete failure to deliver and non-payment for goods received.

Radford International’s manager, Stephen Banks, blames the delays and non-payments on sub-contractors and a series of misfortunes.
However, Richard Knight, of Essex Trading Standards, told the Antiques Trade Gazette he had a large file of complaints concerning Radford. He is conducting his own investigation into the firm and said the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) should assess whether Mr Banks is in breach of assurances he and two former colleagues gave to OFT director John Bridgeman in 1997 about their future conduct, assurances that they gave after a number of complaints concerning their then business, Global Moving Services Ltd, which later changed its name to Red Gulf Transport Ltd.

Mr Banks has now confirmed that Radford and its holding company, Gold Vale Associates, are to cease trading and a new company, to be called UK Worldwide Movers Ltd, is to be launched from the same premises.

Mr Knight believes that there is a huge loophole in the law that allows this “phoenixing” of companies, saying: “The ethos that we should make enterprise easy unfortunately also aids the opposite.”

Without a change in the law, new customers and suppliers of services would not necessarily know that UK Worldwide Movers Ltd was effectively the same business carried on under a new name. Mr Knight, who was scathing in his criticism of Radford, said: “They would appear to lure people with their low quotes. But they’re not members of any trade associations, certainly not the British Association of Removers (BAR), and people need to bear in mind, especially when opting for the cheapest deal, that the consequences can be serious.”

In September 1998 Radford collected goods from Gary Wright Antiques, of Moreton-in-Marsh in Gloucestershire for delivery to a Mr Turner in Australia, who paid Radford £1825 for the goods and shipping on the understanding that Radford would pass on payment for the goods. Three months later Mr Turner had not received the goods, nor had Gary Wright received his payment. In January 1999 Gary Wright issued a summons against Radford to recover their money. When Radford failed to respond, a County Court Judgement was issued against its holding company, Goodline Management Ltd. By mid-February, Goodline ceased trading and was placed into liquidation. It was replaced by Gold Vale Associates. Fortunately for Mr Turner, he paid Radford by credit card and was able to reverse the payment and reimburse Gary Wright Antiques their costs; the goods have since been delivered intact.

When asked about these incidents, Stephen Banks told the Antiques Trade Gazette: “There was a fire in the Melbourne warehouse of Weate’s, the haulage company we were using, and then the owner of Weate’s died of cancer, so it was chaos for a while, but it’s all sorted out now.” A faxed copy of a newspaper report confirmed that Weate’s warehouse had been gutted in a suspected arson attack.

Another complaint came from Rod Wilson, of Red Lion Antiques, Petworth, West Sussex, who asked Radford last September to make a delivery of two separate shipments to a customer in Kansas. When nothing had arrived several weeks after collection, Mr Wilson was obliged to track down his goods. One consignment was – and still is – in the possession of US hauliers California Van Lines, LA, who will not release the goods until they receive payment from Radford; the second batch was found in a rented U-Haul truck abandoned by its driver in a car park. The owners of the goods in that truck had to pay $2000 to get the goods back.

Abandoned truck

Alison Barber, of Barber Antiques, in Northamptonshire, complains of similar problems with Radford, who last October collected some furniture from her shop for delivery to Henryville, Illinois. When she wrote to the Antiques Trade Gazette in mid-July this year, the shipment had still not arrived at its destination, although it was cleared at the New Jersey customs office in December 1999. The goods remained at the customs house until early March when they were signed for and removed; the delivery truck was later found abandoned in a municipal car park. Again the customers had to pay the truck owners (Mr Banks claims it was a haulage company called UK Movers) to have their goods released.

Mr Banks told us: “UK Movers employed the driver and they had a disagreement. The president of that company has now left. With Rod Wilson it’s the same story, but a different driver.” He promised: “We will reimburse the $2000 that has been paid to U-Haul.”

Gordon Hammond, of School House Antiques in Chipping Camden, had also had trouble with a shipment to Australia.

In all these cases, the dealers said they knew of others with similar stories, and Mr Knight of Essex Trading Standards confirmed that they were by no means isolated incidents. Antiques dealers aren’t the only people to have complained, he said; other businesses and private individuals have fallen foul of Radford’s freight forwarding services while sending goods abroad or moving home.

Of the two others previously working for Radford, Robert Punnett was the only one listed as a director of Gold Vale Associates at Companies House, but he resigned from that post in March this year.

Mr Banks, though not a director of Gold Vale, has been the director or company secretary of a number of other freight companies – Times Freight, Baraband Removal Ltd, Kiwi Container Line Ltd, Alarb Ltd, Nabtu Ltd, Global Moving Services and Red Gulf Transport – all of which were dissolved, and he also resigned as director from another company, the Association of International Removers Ltd, at the end of 1991.

He told the Antiques Trade Gazette that Radford/Gold Vale would now follow suit: “We’ve lost a lot in Australia and we’ll have to close the company. Because of the stress, the director has packed it in.”