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Wed, Jul 17 2024, 22:29:27Login ] [ Contact Forum Admin ] [ Main index ] [ Post a new message ] [ Search | Check update time | Archives: 12345678[9]10 ]
Subject: Interval Resort Network (IRN) Australia

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Date Posted: Tue, May 31 2005, 16:15:35

See http://www.thisisbradford.co.uk/bradford__district/archive/1999/10/08/news1RM.html

First published on Friday 08 October 1999:
A couple at the centre of a 2.5million Australian holiday company collapse have been running a new business in Shipley.

Laurence and Julie Haydn-Higgins are alleged to have led a champagne lifestyle involving a luxury mansion and race horses while customers who joined their holiday discount club in Perth, Australia, were left thousands of pounds out of pocket and with a string of broken promises.

Their business activities down under have been investigated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the country's Ministry of Fair Trading.

The company the couple ran - Interval Resort Network (Australia) Pty Ltd - was charged with seven offences of making false representations in connection with the promotion of a travel and accommodation scheme.

But as it has now collapsed and is in the hands of the receivers, the Australian authorities will have to decide whether or not to proceed with the case.

Both Laurence and Julie Hadyn-Higgins have hit back at the allegations and protested their innocence. They say they have been "through hell and back".

The couple, who have been advertising for sales staff for Shipley-based holiday marketing companies which they call Choice Marketing, Leisure Choice Marketing and Globesoft Marketing, say they were not responsible for the Australian company's collapse and claim they were victims of a witch-hunt by the Australian media and receivers brought in to run the company.

They now claim they are being forced to hand over the Shipley-based companies to new directors because they fear the 'persecution' they faced in Australia will continue in the UK.

Speaking exclusively to the Telegraph &Argus, the couple have denied allegations that they used customers' money to fuel a life of luxury or having any knowledge that their sales force were making inflated claims about their products.

They now say they are on the verge of bankruptcy but hope to make a new start in the Bradford area and are still willing to honour their commitments to the customers they left on the other side of the world.

But the Australian authorities have renewed their warnings about the Haydn-Higgins.

Ministry of Fair Trading officials say that more than 100 complaints have been levelled at Interval Resort Network (Australia) Pty Ltd.

Corporate watchdog the Australian Securities and Investment Commission began its investigation after receiving information which suggested that the company might be trading while insolvent. It appointed receivers PTB Ashton Read to look into the company affairs.

Steve Howell, director of enforcement at ASIC, said: "From our experience of the Haydn-Higgins I would advise investors and creditors to be very careful of their activities."

Watchdogs claim pair left a trail of 'broken promises'

The couple accused of leading a champagne lifestyle while their Australian travel company collapsed around their ears left a trail of broken promises and customers thousands of dollars out of pocket, it is claimed.

Laurence and Julie Haydn-Higgins left Australia under a cloud earlier this year after a holiday club company of which they were directors was put into receivership leaving between 1,500 and 1,800 would-be holidaymakers out of pocket.

Mrs and Mrs Haydn-Higgins set up Interval Resort Network (Australia) Pty Ltd two years ago with fellow directors Shane Poletti and James Hong Tee, who are now believed to be in Western Australia and Portugal.

The company employed telemarketers to invite customers to a presentation in its plush offices in Northbridge, Perth, eastern Australia, where they were invited to join a network scheme which entitled them to discounts on air travel and accommodation.

Club membership cost between 1,250 and 5,000. As an incentive customers were offered free resort accommodation in Bali and Phuket if they sat through an intensive 90 minute presentation.

Trouble began for the couple when Australian industry watchdog the Ministry of Fair Trading started receiving complaints about the company claiming that customers had not received discounts, were having trouble securing holidays on the dates they wanted and that telemarketers had been making inflated claims. It also alleges that IRN falsely claimed to have been approved by the Ministry.

IRN was alleged to have made $A6 million - the equivalent of 2.5 million - over a 16 month period and spent it on a champagne lifestyle, buying a luxury mansion and shares in a racehorse, and leaving a trail of creditors and disgruntled customers.

The Ministry took action against IRN, which also ran an office in Sydney for a short time, in June by charging it with seven offences of making false representations in connection with the promotion of a travel and accommodation scheme. But now IRN has been put out of business, the Australian authorities have to decide whether it is in the public interest to go ahead with the case.

Complaints were also made to the Australian Securities and Inves-ments Commission (ASIC) which suggested that the company was trading while insolvent. It which appointed financial experts PPB Ashton Read as receivers and IRN was forced into receivership on June 21. Despite that move, the receivers say they continued to receive complaints that customers' credit cards were being debited after that date. IRN was put into receivership just days after mother-of-three Mrs Haydn-Higgins had successfully applied to the Supreme Court for the return of her passport to allow her to leave Australia on the condition that she would return to the country within 30 days of the ASIC asking her to go back. Her husband had already returned to Britain several weeks earlier.

Patrick Walker, commissioner for Fair Trading at Australia's Ministry of Fair Trading, said that they had received more than 100 complaints about Interval Resort Networks since the beginning of the year from customers who claimed that they had been unable to secure the discounts that had been promised.

Mr Walker added that many former customers had lodged claims with the Small Claims Tribunal.

Steve Howell, director of enforcement at ASIC, said: "We investigated the company because we had evidence to suggest that they were trading while insolvent.

"When Julie Haydn-Higgins attempted to leave the country we got a Supreme Court order preventing her leaving while we investigated further. The bottom line for us is that we stopped them trading - protecting investors and consumers.

"From our experience of the Haydn-Higgins I would advise investors and creditors to be very careful of their activities. The whole thing was controlled by Julie Haydn-Higgins and her husband. There were no decisions taken without her knowledge. She's not a person that we would feel comfortable managing a corporation and dealing with other people's money."

Mr Howell said that the ASIC had alerted the Financial Services Authority in the UK that the former IRN directors had returned to the country.

ASIC regional commissioner Jamie Ogilvie said: "Of course, the company directors were entitled to be paid but there were certainly some inconsistencies between their lifestyle and the profitability of the company.

"They incurred significant operating expenses. They way in which they lived wasn't consistent with how profitable the company was. Their track record in Australia suggests that potential clients in the UK should treat them very carefully."

Former IRN chief executive Marcus Honeyball said he had been hired by the company as a trouble shooter to sort out its debt problems.

He said that he had first met the couple in Singapore where he had helped to set up an office for them in a previous venture.

He said: "The company sales team were very good but the back up services were shocking. The financial control was almost non-existent. It was total mismanagement."

But they haven't lost taste for travel

Despite having their fingers burnt by their experiences in Australia, Julie and Laurence Haydn-Higgins did not lose their taste for their holiday business.

In August they began actively recruiting sales reps, a sales director and telephone operators for what they refer to as established international travel companies Globesoft and Choice Marketing.

They were operating from premises in a detached new office development in Otley Road, Shipley.

The office is half empty but there are travel posters for exotic locations on the walls. When approached by the T&A at the premises, staff initially asked if we had come for a job interview before telling us that Mr or Mrs Haydn-Higgins were too busy to be interviewed and we would have to make an appointment.

The couple later contacted the T&A and agreed to talk to us.

Mrs Haydn-Higgins said they were not directors of Choice Marketing but were carrying out recruitment for the directors, whom she could not name. Mrs Haydn-Higgins said that she and her husband were planning to run Leisure Choice Marketing, which is registered with British Telecom as being at the same address, carrying out telemarketing for a wide variety of local companies.

She has personally placed staff recruitment adverts for Globesoft although she says that the company is nothing to do with either her or her husband.

And although Mrs Haydn-Higgins said that she had dismissed the idea of running a points holiday club and a time share business she did place adverts for a sales director to run three sales desks for a time share and holiday points club.

On Wednesday night when the T&A went back to Choice Marketing, Mrs Haydn-Higgins was welcoming customers to a holiday club presentation at the Otley Road offices.

Choice Marketing Director Dave Adams said: "She comes in to help with the training. Now we are up and running she comes in about twice a week. We have nothing to hide. I Have worked in this industry for eight years and I would not get involved if it wasn't straight.

"I don't want anything that Julie has done in her private life to reflect on this company. We are totally autonomous to Julie."

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