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Call for World of Furniture customers to come forward

By Rachel Martin

Only 12 customers at a failed Northern Ireland furniture company have come forward so far to tell the Official Receiver they are owed money, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

It's understood investigations into World of Furniture, which include attempts to establish the value of all its assets and debts, are taking place after it was wound up over unpaid rates.

Wilson's Auctions is expected to handle the sale of some of the firm's assets after World of Furniture shops in Belfast and Londonderry were closed last month. But Wilson's would not say when any auction would take place.

World of Furniture left customers out of pocket when the firm's two stores shut down.

Many said orders had not been delivered and they were asked to pay in cash because they were told the firm's credit card machine was not working.

Several have contacted the Belfast Telegraph to say they are owed hundreds of pounds.

A spokesman for the Department for the Economy said a decision would be made on whether or not to appoint an external insolvency practitioner to deal with the company's affairs.

"Once that decision has been taken, it is likely an auction will take place as quickly as possible. Until the auction takes place, it is not possible to say how much money will be available to distribute to creditors," he said.

"The winding up of the company was petitioned by Land and Property Services and, to date, around 12 customers have been identified. There is no deadline for customers to come forward, but any that are affected should contact the Official Receiver as quickly as possible."

The spokesman added that the investigation would include identifying any potential misconduct by the company's directors as a matter of routine.

"The Official Receiver, and all private sector insolvency practitioners, are routinely required to provide a report to the department's directors disqualification unit (DDU), following all creditors voluntary liquidations and compulsory winding up made by the court," he said.

Several rival firms, including Harvey Norman and EZ Living, offered to honour customers' deposits as store credit.

Gerard O'Hanlon, who was a director of the furniture shop, last month expressed regret at the circumstances leading up to the failure of the company.

Hopes of trading well over January did not materialise.

"We are very sorry that this has happened, it's the last thing we wanted but it became obvious that we couldn't sustain the company," he said.

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