CONTROVERSIAL Cameo Fine Art Auctioneers has suspended trading due to “adverse publicity and a police investigation,” it emerged today (Friday).
Angry customers milled around the Midgham-based firm’s premises, but the shutters remained down.
A notice pinned to the door (pictured) read: “Due to the adverse publicity and a police investigation into a former member of staff Cameo has suspended business until the end of May.”
Earlier this week it emerged that Cameo blamed an “administration error” over claims that they wrongly and repeatedly took money from individuals’ bank accounts.
And in a statement - hotly contested by some of the victims - the Midgham-based firm claimed to have “corrected the mistake as soon as it was found.”
Meanwhile even more people have come forward to say that, despite never having bid in a Cameo auction, they discovered cash removed from their account which they have been unable to get back.
The Cameo statement went on to say the firm no longer had any “outstanding issues” with consumer watchdogs - a claim also denied by West Berkshire Council trading standards chiefs yesterday (Wednesday).
Since Newburytoday.co.uk’s sister publication, the Newbury Weekly News, first reported clients’ concerns over Cameo’s business practises, more than 70 complainants from across Britain and beyond have alleged non-payment, bounced cheques or lost items.
In addition, there are the numerous allegations that Cameo took money from the bank accounts of people who had never even taken part in an auction.
Among the latest was 53-year-old John MacKay from Northampton who said this week he was shocked to find £258.43 had mysteriously been removed from his bank account by Cameo in March, despite never having bid at their auction.
It has emerged that he and others had registered with an online firm that acts as go-between between auctions and live bidders – the-saleroom.com - which led to the firm suspending Cameo from access to its online bidding process.
Managing director, Anne Somers said at the time: “Some people registered with the intention to be an online bidder at some point. They then found transactions appearing on their bank statements despite never having bid. We gave Cameo every opportunity to explain but their explanations weren’t substantiated and resolutions weren’t delivered.”
Cameo is now linked to a rival company, easyliveauction.com which stated they were “satisfied by Cameo’s explanations” for the deluge of complaints.
Cameo is also currently subject to 18 outstanding county court judgements involving sums totalling almost £20,000 but in the statement, Cameo boss Jon King suggests the firm itself it the victim, adding: “There is no reference to any (money) owed to us.”
The statement, which branded the complaints to the NWN “malicious,” concluded that the issue had been “blown out of all proportion by the press and public.”
Spokesman for West Berkshire Council’s trading standards department, Sean Murphy, this week denied that all issues had been resolved with Cameo and 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.’
For the latest developments on this story, pick up a copy of next Thursday’s Newbury Weekly News.