TV repair company on the blink
He's been fined thousands of pounds, named and shamed in the media and even been sentenced to prison for a year - but it seems nothing will stop TV Repair Centre (TVRC) boss, Gurdave Sharma from misleading and overcharging customers through his TV repair company that operates across England.
We've heard from people across the country, complaining about shoddy repairs, bad customer service and in some cases, never getting their TVs back altogether.
You may have phoned them thinking they're a local company, but think again. Sharma has lots of ads in the Yellow Pages all apparently local TV repairers, complete with local telephone numbers. But as Matt and Dan found out this week, you never know who's at the end of a 'so called' local company!
TVRC customer complaints
Maureen Macready called out 'Chorley and Leyland TV Repair' in January when her TV went on the blink. She was slightly surprised when a repairer turned up to take the TV away... to Birmingham! Sadly, that was the last she ever saw of it after paying £80 for TVRC to investigate the fault.
"I felt so stupid; I let the likes of those people to come into my home. And I actually gave them cash, and they took the television on top of it," she said.
Despite endless phone calls to TVRC and promises of its return, Maureen has given up hope of getting her TV back.
Lin Robinson fell victim to TVRC too, but for different reasons. After calling 'Bedford and Milton Keynes TV/LCD/Plasma Repair Centre' in the Yellow Pages, she was lucky enough to get her TV returned... unfortunately it cost £60 to repair and was still faulty!
Derek Barlow called what he too believed was a local company advertising as 'Northampton TV'. After they came and collected his TV for their advertised "free quotation", Derek wasn't happy with the estimate and tried to cancel.
"I said bring the TV back please, and he said no I'm sorry I can't do that. You're going to have to come and collect it". So despite company assurances of free estimates and free collection and delivery, Derek was forced to make a round trip of over an hour to pick up his TV.
We also heard similar complaints from other places including Preston and the Wirral. But despite the 'local' names and numbers, they're all just one Birmingham-based company, called TVRC. In 2006 the company was ripping off so many people that its boss, Gurdave Sharma, went to prison for breaking an undertaking to trade fairly. Is he up to his old tricks again? We called his company out to find out.
Rogue gets a repair
To get to the bottom of this, we decided to call out one of their 'local' repair companies, 'Bedford and Milton Keynes TV/LCD/Plasma Repair Centre' to get a taste of the TVRC experience. We got our TV expert, Jim Munford, with nearly 50 years experience to set a sound fault with an old Sony TV that would take no more than half an hour (and a bit of soldering) to repair. Not only that, but we installed it with hi-tech trackers, to see exactly where it went.
In our house in Milton Keynes, we set up secret cameras and waited for TVRC to arrive. They didn't come to fix it however, but took it away to the Midlands - with us tracking them the whole time.
Oddly, on its return to their industrial park, the van stops several times. There are similar adverts in Luton, Northampton and Peterborough - with the same tiny address on most of them - could just one van be picking up all the TVs for all these apparently local companies?
The tracker finally came to rest in Birmingham, at Hastingwood Industrial Estate, the business address of TVRC.
Despite promises of next day return, TVRC didn't turn up at our house in Milton Keynes until a week later... but strangely the company returned the wrong TV, as our Sony was apparently 'beyond economical repair'. Remember, it's only a simple soldering job that would take no more than half an hour to complete. Unconvinced by this replacement, our undercover researcher refused the TV and asked for the other 'unrepairable' TV back.
After a few text messages and a bit of whispering later, TVRC suddenly realise that they CAN repair the TV - the one they said was "beyond economical repair". Three days later they're back with the original TV and a bill for £145 - roughly double what it should have cost.
Our expert Jim Munford takes a look at their handiwork and is far from impressed. "They've only done part of the repair; out of ten solder joints they've soldered four. Eventually the sound will go off in a matter of days or weeks".
Not to be put off by the bad repair job in Milton Keynes, we tried another company, this time further north in Blackpool and a 'posher' TV, a 42" plasma.
Jim has set a new fault, a poorly on/off switch that costs about £1.20 to replace. Add on time and labour charges and it should cost no more than £200 to fix. We wait to see how TVRC get on...
Interestingly, the same man from Milton Keynes travels all the way to Blackpool to pick up our TV. He can't repair it at the house; instead he suggests that it will be taken to the local repair unit. But, we're on his tail, and despite losing him, we find the van the next day in Birmingham - next to the industrial estate where our other TV ended up.
A few days later, our TV is dropped off - at 9.30 at night! The repairman tells our undercover operator that the multimedia board was faulty, which was what caused it to switch off. He charges a total of £345 - at least £150 more than it should have been - even for a good job.
Once again Jim takes a good look at our TV to figure out what they have done (if anything). They have clearly replaced the switch, but Jim is confused by this alleged new multi media board. Jim's slightly puzzled and tells us "a multimedia board doesn't even exist".
But that's not the only enigma this plasma has to hide. Not only has TVRC fitted a non-existent part, but a new fault altogether seems to have developed.
"What they've done somehow is introduce a secondary fault - because now the set goes into protect mode after a couple of hours and turns itself off. It's a substandard repair - you've been ripped off".
We headed off to talk to TVRC about their shoddy repairs - and to find its boss - Gurdave Sharma. Remember, he's already been to prison for TV repair issues - so why is he still up to his old tricks?
Matt tracks down Sharma
Matt catches up with Gurdave Sharma having a coffee at a supermarket close to his Birmingham work place. He's keen to get away and has little to say to Matt, instead choosing to drive off with the car door open.
Gurdave Sharma, boss of TV Repair Centre did send us a statement:
"TVRC prides itself on successfully diagnosing and repairing televisions nationwide. The company has been established for over 30 years and has many, many satisfied customers.
"Therefore, statistically, problems or unresolved matters concerning diagnosis or cost of repair are extremely rare. However, it is deeply regretful if any customer(s) feel they have been mislead or treated unfairly by TVRC.
"Indeed, customers who have questions or queries regarding a repair are treated fairly and respectfully to bring about a prompt resolution to all concerned.
"Equally, customers mentioned on this programme will be swiftly contacted in order to effectively resolve all issues, problems or queries."
If you've had any problems with TV repair companies please send us your stories as we cannot publish any allegations about companies without investigating first.
However, we're keen to know what you feel about TV repairs - how do you choose your repair company and what level of service do you expect? Let us know below: