House of Fraser web shoppers in limbo as £500m debts unfold
The new owners of House of Fraser have no "plans in the diary" to reinstate the chain's online service after all website orders were cancelled yesterday, it was claimed last night.
A source close to Mike Ashley's Sports Direct said that a dispute with distributor XPO Logistics was impacting upon its online service and showed little sign of being resolved.
According to administrators Ernst and Young's report, XPO is owed more than £30m and workers at its Wellingborough centre reportedly downed tools leading to product shortages in some House of Fraser outlets.
The Sports Direct source said that "Mike and the team have been working with suppliers since the takeover last Friday", but there had been "little engagement" with XPO.
"At this point it's impacting on thousands of customers and there are no plans in the diary, so we don't know when the website will be up and running again."
In a statement referencing the cancellation of online orders placed after the takeover, House of Fraser said: "We didn't take this decision lightly, but since we cannot give our customers clear assurances of when their orders will be delivered, we believe cancellation is the best option.
"All customers affected will receive an email about the cancellation and refund in the next couple of days."
One disgruntled shopper told the Belfast Telegraph she felt like she was "in limbo".
"When I first heard the news about House of Fraser last Friday, I instantly panicked because I still had £140 left on a voucher from last Christmas," she said.
"I knew that they weren't accepting vouchers in the Victoria Square store and I bought a pair of £40 shoes in the sale using part of the gift card and I got a confirmation email.
"By Tuesday afternoon I had heard nothing so I emailed customer service and got an automated reply saying they would get back to me within 72 hours.
"I'm still waiting and I don't see much point in emailing again until I see if my order will be cancelled and the refund made."
Sports Direct said it "has no liability to customers in possession of existing gift cards and vouchers", and added "customers in possession of gift cards and vouchers are encouraged to send them into the House of Fraser head office... whereby replacements will be issued".
John French, chief executive of The Consumer Council, advised concerned customers to contact their credit and debit card provider, if that was the payment method they used online.
He said: "Purchases by card have additional protection and a full refund may be provided by the card issuer.
"Items that cost you between £100 and £30,000 paid for by credit card have added protection. For items less than £100, you may be able to use your debit or credit card provider's Chargeback scheme," he said.
The comments came as it was revealed House of Fraser owed more than £484m to creditors including top designer brands Armani, Diesel, Prada and Gucci.
And Sports Direct chief Mike Ashley, who bought out House of Fraser, will not be footing the bill for any money owed before his £90m rescue last Friday.