Wine Direct collapses into administration

Online retailer Wine Direct has gone into administration following weeks of complaints about poor levels of customer service and late or missing orders.

Trading has been temporarily suspended at winedirect.co.uk and justincases.co.uk, both of which are owned by Fermentation Ltd.

The parent company has gone into liquidation and it appointed Stephen Evans and Hugh Francis Jesseman of Antony Batty & Co as joint administrators on January 17.

A statement on Wine Direct’s website said: “The joint administrators are currently assessing the options available in respect of a sale of the company’s business and assets and in the meantime trading has been temporarily suspended.”

The Wine Direct online business was originally launched by Sainsbury’s in the mid-1990s. It invested heavily in the site but in the early 2000s it pulled out, according to a source.

The domain name was subsequently taken on as a joint venture between Andrew Birtley, Fermentation Ltd’s managing director, and Peter Rehbury, owner of Hailsham Cellars, but Hailsham Cellars no longer has any connection to Wine Direct and Andrew Birtley’s role as a director at Hailsham Cellars is believed to have ended a couple of years ago.

Many customers have taken to Trustpilot.com to vent their anger about Wine Direct’s demise. A number of complaints suggest that the business has been unable to satisfactorily complete orders for several weeks.

Earlier this month, Andrew Dickson said the service was “very poor” and delivery was promised on four separate dates. He added: “They eventually let slip that they didn’t even have the wine in stock. I was promised a refund but that didn’t materialise either. Luckily I’d used my credit card and the card company dealt with my issue quickly. Avoid WineDirect!!”

Drew Keith said he was charged six times for an order that didn’t turn up, while another said the company only got one star on TrustPilot “because there’s no zero option”.

Comments on Twitter also highlight concerns.

James Hubbard tweeted: “Can’t say I am surprised given the utter ineptitude of their customer service. Truly shocking. Nonetheless I feel for any staff impacted and hope they have found, or find, alternative employment very soon.”

An industry source told DRN: “The people who offer wine online only need to offer something unique and they weren’t, so they were only able to compete on price, but they just didn’t have the margins. We have seen before with Slurp and I think others will follow in time.”

Customers with outstanding orders are advised to contact their payment provider in the first instance in respect of refunds and any claims should be notified in writing to Antony Batty & Company LLP, Swan House, 9 Queens Road, Brentwood, Essex CM14 4HE for the attention of Steve Marshall.


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