RIDERS around the country have been left out of pocket following the decision by Bikes-UK to call in receivers.
Bikes-UK has 14 shops and after taking over control of the firm, which is Britain’s second biggest chain of bike dealers with 14 shops, receivers Grant Thornton insisted it was operating as normal.
And, yes, the firm was operating normally – as long as you wanted to give them money.
But if you had already given Bikes-UK your cash, it wasn’t about to honour any agreements made before the receivers were called in.
For many, that meant service plans – where they paid in advance for four services at a cost of around £400 – weren’t worth the paper they were written on.
That was bad enough, but one customer of the branch in Cannock, Staffs, lost his life savings after a deal to buy a Triumph Sprint ST collapsed on him.
George Smith, 46, from nearby Hednesford laid down a £3500 deposit on the machine before the firm went into receivership, but had to wait for it to be in stock.
Before he could get his bike, the receivers came in and he was then told he wouldn’t be getting either the machine or his money back.
Where many manufacturers were dealing with Bikes-UK to keep the flow of machines going, Triumph immediately ceased all dealings with the firm.
Smith said: " This is my life savings we’re talking about. I’ve lost them.
" I’ve spoken to the receivers and been told that the first people to be paid off will be the Inland Revenue. I’m a working class bloke and my savings are going towards the men in grey suits. I feel I’ve been shafted. "
Smith was told his only method of recompense was to become a creditor of the firm and hope to get some of his dough back – although it will take up to two years and he is unlikely to get more than half of what he paid.
Grant Thornton’s Nigel Ruddock said: " We cannot legally pay this claim. If we pay his, we shouldn’t we then pay everybody else’s? We would be preferring him against others, which is why the insolvency law is there in the first place. "
Once a company goes into receivership, it carries on as effectively a new firm. Any agreement you have is with the old one, as riders found when they tried to book their bikes in for a service they had already coughed up for.
The shop’s boss, Ross Feltham, said: " The receivers are saying we cannot do the services – they are in control of the businesses.
" We’re here to help the customers and we’re at the front-end, taking their frustration. Most of them have been very understanding and I hope they will continue to support the Bikes-UK branches as we’ll need them if we are to get through this. "
Bikes-UK is the third chain to hit trouble in the past year. Motorcycle City’s financial problems left them ripe for a takeover by Carnell, which went through last November, and M&P went into administration last month.
Carnell-City, which has declared an interest in M&P, quickly ruled out an attempt to add the Bikes-UK shops to its portfolio.
Simon Dixon, managing director of Carnell’s parent company Dixon Motors, said: " We have no interest in purchasing the company as our strategies are poles apart and we do not believe that the business has been particularly well run. "
Meanwhile, most manufacturers are making sure the firm can still sell bikes, by keeping supply lines open.
Nine of the 14 dealers had Yamaha franchises and the firm’s sales and marketing director Andrew Smith said it would be doing all it could to help keep the Bikes-UK branches running by maintaining the flow of bikes. He said: " They remain an official Yamaha dealer and anyone who buys from them knows the product is protected in terms of warranty. "
Former chief executive Jim Crooks, who had his contract terminated by the receivers with no compensation, said, " There’s nothing I can do to put the money back in people’s pockets. All I can do is say I’m sorry "