News Column

How washed-up supplier left dream home without kitchen

June 29, 2014

Anna Tims GR, Hull TH, Cheltenham



Last year, I finally built my dream house. Yet more than a year on it doesn't have a kitchen. I ordered the units and fittings from Mobalpa Kitchens in Hull at a cost of pounds 18,000 and was surprised to be asked to pay the 10% deposit in cash. When questioned, the manager claimed he did not want to be liable for credit-card fees. With the deposit paid, we understood that the kitchen would be ordered and that delivery would be agreed 12 weeks before the house was completed. Several months later, however, I was asked to pay a further pounds 7,000 in cash before the order could be placed. I refused and after contacting my bank for advice offered to pay pounds 150 on my credit card and the rest by cheque payable to Mobalpa kitchens.

When I checked my online banking a few weeks later I was surprised to see that the cheque had been cashed by Early Nights Ltd. In October 2013, we heard that Mobalpa Hull had ceased trading, leaving me with no kitchen and pounds 8,800 in lost cash. After some probing we found out that the Mobalpa Hull showroom was a franchise called Early Nights Ltd and, despite all the promises by the manager that the transaction would be guaranteed by Mobalpa International, we had lost everything. The UK's only official Mobalpa showroom, in Warrington, offered to help but when it found our kitchen had still not been ordered we were told it could not supply us unless we paid a further pounds 6,000.

GR, Hull

You were right to hear alarm bells when you were first asked to pay in cash, as that leaves you unable to pursue any claim for the first deposit under the Consumer Credit Act. However, you could claim the pounds 7,000 deposit from your credit-card issuer: the bank legally holds joint liability with the trader for the full sum, even if only part of it was paid by credit card.

Mobalpa International confirms that it had a partnership with Early Nights Ltd under a concession contract signed in 2011 (since 2013, it says, all its contracts have been franchises), and says that the outlet closed without warning in September 2013. However, since it is still registered as active on the Companies House website you could bring a claim against it through the small claims court, although if the company is heavily indebted you might never receive your money - even if the court finds in your favour.

Early Nights' bank also has questions to answer as to why it cashed a cheque made out to a different name, especially when Mobalpa International forbids its franchises to use the Mobalpa name for payments. In February, Mobalpa International promised me that it guarantees deposits from partners and franchises and that it would supply your kitchen units. Four months on, you have finally received these but reckon you've had to pay pounds 1,000 over the original quote to cover worktops, appliances and installation. The harsh lesson here is always to use a credit card for large transactions so that your outlay is protected if the trader breaches the contract.

Sky shows its limits as error over offer date costs dearly

On 1 April I saw a Sky newspaper advert for a broadband deal - an offer to refund up to pounds 100 of any cancellation fees charged by a customer's current supplier.

Since I was dissatisfied with my supplier and was six months into an 18-month contract, I decided to take up the offer. I did this on 7 April, using Sky's webpage. The cancellation charges amounted to pounds 139.72 and so I wrote to Sky to claim the maximum amount of pounds 100. Sky rejected my claim on the grounds that the broadband order was placed before the promotion period. Clearly, this is not the case since the newspaper advert and corresponding webpage appeared six days before my application but Sky is not budging.

TH, Cheltenham

It dawned on Sky, when I contacted its press office that, since the promotion ran from February to May you were indisputably eligible. Evidently some bods in customer services issued you with the wrong generic letter and were too witless to work out their mistake when you complained. You have now received an apology and the vouchers containing your refund.

If you need help email Anna Tims at

your.problems@observer.co.uk or write to Your Problems, The Observer, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Include an address and phone number.



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Source: Observer (UK)


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