Customers of a High Street pawnbroker are being left in the dark after branches were closed and calls unanswered.
A&B Pawnbrokers (Albemarle & Bond) and Herbert Brown stores have closed their doors, and its website says “this store” has ceased trading.
Owner Speedloan Finance has yet to make it clear whether any of the 116 stores will remain open.
The pawnbrokers’ trade body hit out at the firm’s unanswered helpline.
“Their decision to downscale UK operations is a strategic matter for the company but [we have] expressed concern that the communication of their actions to their customers falls below the standards expected of its members,” the National Pawnbrokers Association (NPA) said.
“In particular we are most unhappy with the fact that customers cannot get through to the helpline. We have demanded that the management of the company resolve this as a matter of urgency.”
Pawnbrokers allow customers to offer something valuable as security for a loan, or buy items such as jewellery and antiques. They lend money quickly, but usually at a worse rate than banks.
Stores also often offer other financial services such as currency exchange and buying gold.
The company said that any items pawned in A&B stores will be transferred to a central store, and can be redeemed or sold through this operation.
“If your items are expired or due to expire, please note we will not take any action with your items until we speak to you,” the website said.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to contact all customers prior to the closure date. We apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.”
Albemarle & Bond was established in 1840.
BBC News has been unable to contact anyone from the company to explain the extent of the closures or the reasons for them.
The regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), said it was aware that companies operated by Speedloan had closed stores.
“We are aware of the issue and we are engaged with the firm,” the FCA said.
The Financial Ombudsman Service said it had received calls from frustrated customers unable to get through to the company and were worried about their items.
Customers can contact the company on 01865 798114 which is a dedicated hotline. If customers are not happy with the response from the company, they can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service to complain on 0800 023 4567, or the FCA customer helpline on 0800 111 6768.
How does pawnbroking work?
- Customer “pledges” an item, such as a gold ring for a set period of time, usually six months
- Pawnbroker gives 50% to 60% of the item’s value as a cash loan
- Customer pays 7% to 8% interest every month
- An item can be redeemed during the loan period by paying back the original loan and any interest up to that point
- If the customer cannot repay the loan at the end of the deal the pawnbroker sells the item and returns any surplus to the customer
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