What price your image?

When Mani Shoker agreed to new 20-20 Texaco signage at his Beran Service Station at Deiniolen in Gwynedd at a cost of £35,000, he expected the job to be a pretty perfect one with no faults.

The work was completed in June and three professionals from Valero (formerly Chevron Limited), contractor CFG National and project management company Wyeth approved the work at a ’snagging’ session. Mani wasn’t present but says he had expected them to find the faults that he subsequently noted. The list included his observations that the canopy wasn’t straight; the fixtures (advertising stands) were shaky and not secured to the floor properly; the 4-5ft high display stands in between the pumps were also shaky; the illuminated pole sign was set in ugly, exposed cement and the LED lighting was wonky.

He complained to his area manager who had said he was happy with the work and that the retailer should now pay CFG.

"If I can see these things, then what’s underneath, behind the scenes?" asks Mani.

He has requested an independent inspector to assess the job and he is withholding the outstanding £22,000 that is due.

There are four companies all told here so problems are always going to be difficult to unravel.

Just trying to get all four on site at the same time has proved testing and it was complicated by Mani being out of the country for a while.

Valero has expressed concern and has pointed out that it has successfully completed more than 200 rebrands at Texaco service stations in the UK to date.

Meanwhile, Mani has been receiving strong final demands from CFG for payment.

Regular contact has been maintained and hopefully all four parties will come together this month. Fingers crossed for all concerned.

A touchy point

Several retailers have been in touch over Point Four’s latest tactics. For those unfamiliar with the company, Point 4 offered an epos system over a five-year contract which should have been free, maintenance support-wise, should Point 4 have managed to sell advertising space to the biggies (Mr Heinz/Cadbury/News International etc). The bums on seats unfortunately never happened and now that the original five-year contracts are coming to an end, the company is jumping in quick to get retailers signed up for another three years.

Laurence Haring from Fuel 24 in Weston-super-Mare, writes: "From what I see as a form of duress, support would only be continued from September 1 onwards if a new contract was signed, which wouldn’t be effective until March 2012, when our current support deal ends. However, this is where it really grates: they deactivated our account as we hadn’t signed a contract for further support."

After a heated discussion, Laurence, like several others who have been in touch, was advised that the system would only be reactivated if he signed a new contract even though he had already paid via the lease for the support up until March.

"Their answer," says Laurence, "was that Point Four Digital Media went into liquidation and therefore they have no legal obligation to provide support. You just could not write it. This is one big scam and something needs to be done."

Laurence has sent me all the correspondence he has had over time with Point Four.

He concludes: "So where are we? Well, we all know we have been well and truly shafted, and I believe that this should be brought to the DTI’s attention."

He adds that it is all well and good having a carousel of companies, but the director(s) should be personally liable.

In March it was reported in the nationals that new rules for ’pre-pack’ administrations could make it harder for businesses to regain control of failing companies.

Pre-packs allow businesses that are about to go under to be quickly sold to new owners (often the same owners) without the consultation of unsecured creditors. This so-called ’Phoenix’ approach is being tackled by Edward Davey, the Business, Innovation & Skills Minister responsible for insolvency.

Never ignore a statutory demand

Ilyas Umarji used to have two petrol stations. He is now down to one because the landlord sold on the lease and the new landlord decided to run the business himself (which is a legal way of terminating a lease with a tenant).

Ilyas believed that the new occupier had agreed to continue to be supplied by Cooke Fuels. He heard subsequently that the site had been closed but was unprepared for a demand for £15,000, rising to £18,000 from Cooke Fuels. The two events, although looking as though they might be related were actually not.

The company sent him a statutory demand which is not a thing to be ignored. It isn’t just a threatening letter. Had he not responded, he could have been bankrupted. I had a close look at this and, in fact, he made two major mistakes as I see it. The first one was in not getting a solicitor to study both his lease arrangements and his contract with Cooke Fuels.

The second was ignoring several attempts by Cooke Fuels to come to some sort of arrangement. The company wrote off far more than it was entitled to claim. In fact it wrote off around £30,000. A statutory demand was a dramatic way to get Ilyas’ attention.

He is now consulting a lawyer and hopefully all will be resolved.