Friday, 24 January 2014 - 04:31
Siebel bankruptcy: what about customers?
Jeweler Siebel has been declared bankrupt by the court in Amsterdam, Tuesday, leaving customers to wonder where they stand. Last week all 36 stores and the web shop were closed, after 100 years of business and just receiving the "Royal" label in 2013. When a store is declared bankrupt, the court appoints a curator. The curator will handle the store's finances; he will not run the store, however. In any case, it's very important to wait and see what actions the curator will take. Unfortunately, customers who made down payments usually never see that money back, since the curator will first evaluate and pay off all the debts, starting with the banks and the tax department, and then work his way down to the consumer at the bottom of the list, according to Olav Wagenaar, publicity coördinator with legal counsel insurer, DAS. Sometimes a store will be part of a branch organization, providing an extra warranty. Many of these warranties have restrictions though, leaving the customer not better off. Customers should also be aware that sales are not undone by a bankruptcy and the curator may decide to still deliver the product, in which case the customer is obligated to take the product. If however, the curator decides to terminate the sales agreement, technically he should refund the down payment. Of course that doesn't usually happen. A good rule of thumb here is to try and limit an advance payment to the minimum, although legally the supplier may ask for half of the amount upfront. Customers who brought in items for repair remain the owners of their property, according to Wagenaar. He advises to ask the curator in writing to return their property within fourteen days. Naturally the customer should be able to prove he or she is the rightful owner, so it's always handy to have a receipt. Warranties are another issue, one not to be addressed with the curator. If the product is still under factory warranty, the safest way to go is to contact the supplier or the manufacturer. If not, well, basically you remain empty-handed. An extended warranty will only have value if it's through an insurer or the manufacturer, as it will obviously not have any value through a bankrupt store. In some cases a store makes a fresh start, and depending on the situation, customers may not need to worry. If the legal owner only relieved his debt, but is not bankrupt, all agreements remain in affect. However, if the store is taken over by another legal owner, even if it keeps the same name and the same branch manager, all agreements are off, according to Wagenaar. In the case of jewelry chain Siebel a fresh start may just be the case, according to curator Frits Kemp of "Fort Advocaten," who was appointed curator.