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Complaints mount against 1855.com

Clients of online wine merchant 1855.com are becoming increasingly concerned about delivery of their wines.

Smith Haut-Lafitte: demanded to be removed from 1855.com list

initially promised deliveries of the 2008 vintage for June 2011, but has extended the deadline for deliveries to the end of this year, a time when merchants would expect to be delivering the 2009 vintage.

Decanter continues to receive regular complaints from frustrated customers.

On an internet forum called La Passion du Vin forum there are over 2,100 comments relating to the company’s failure to deliver en primeurs.

Among several such cases, over the summer a pan-European group of 1855’s customers instructed a French lawyer to commence a possible class action against 1855. Their claim is in the region of €80,000.

A number of leading Bordeaux châteaux have become increasingly irritated over 1855’s failure to deliver.

In late July David Ornon, commercial director of Château Smith Haut-Lafitte, wrote to 1855 commenting on their ‘lamentable business practices’ and demanding that 1855 remove Smith Haut Lafitte wines from their list of en primeurs.

1855 in their 2010 annual report say that they have secured all their en primeur positions to December 2009.

The company’s turnover fell by 24% in 2010 compared to 2009. The official accounts show 1855’s turnover in 2010 was €7.6m against €9,9m in 2009.

Turnover has dropped by 33% since 2008 and is now lower than it was in 2006, while losses mount up.

During 2010 shareholders injected €11.2m into 1855. This financed the acquisition two other internet wine retailers: Caveprivée in November 2010 and Chateauonline in March 2011.

Fabien Hyon, previously the chief operating officer for 1855, has just been appointed managing director for the three internet retail sites.

A leading 1855 shareholder is banker Jean-Pierre Meyers, who is married to Françoise Bettencourt, daughter of L’Oreal heiress Lilliane Bettencourt.

In an email to Decanter, Hyon said he was confident that all orders would be fulfilled.

‘As far as the 2008 Bordeaux primeurs are concerned, they are delivered from June through December 2011. Deliveries have started and will take place until the end of the year. All our employees work hard on making sure we do not experience further delays.

‘Regarding the 2009 and 2010 Bordeaux primeurs measures have been taken to improve quality of service since 2010. This will ensure that everything will get better.’

Written by Jim Budd

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