PRINTING companies linked to an address in Barry have left dozens of customers out of pocket, after they failed to deliver orders worth thousands of pounds.

An address at Pioden For, Barry Island, has played host to multiple printing companies since at least 2010, with as many as 15 such businesses either being registered to or sharing links to the address. Customers say that having placed orders with the companies during this time, they have either been received months late, contained errors, or have never arrived at all, adding that refunds they were offered by the owners failed to materialise or were substantially less than promised.

As a result, book authors ended up missing important promotional events and periodical magazines were unable to be distributed on time, costing them substantial amounts in lost revenue.

Many of the businesses have also been registered to a series of addresses in London, however customers say they find these are merely forwarding addresses for the Barry Island property. While the businesses are registered by Companies House under a range of different directors, the property itself is the residence of a Mr Neill John and his partner, Clair Hunnisett.

Mr John admitted having been a director of one of the companies, Ambeck Corporation Ltd, and also said he had carried out work for another – Litho Printing Ltd – but said this had been purely on a consultancy basis.

Ms Hunnisett is named as a director for several of the firms, although she is not understood to have played a prominent role in liaising with customers or suppliers.

While Mr John acknowledged that Litho Printing had faced a number of difficulties during his time there, he claimed the issues reported were not his responsibility.

Berni Albrighton, who never received her order from the now defunct (registered name Ink Paper Ltd), claims she is still owed around £1,500 by the firm. She claims that all of her dealings with the business were done directly through Mr John, operating under his middle name, Malcolm.

"One time I called him (Mr John) and I was in tears," she said.

"He said to me ‘look, I’m a man of faith. I went to church yesterday. How do you think I’d sleep at night if I'd let people down’.

"He sent me the full details of 14 of his so-called satisfied customers.

"I decided to get in touch with them and 12 of the 14 people got back to me with some heartbreaking stories.

"I didn’t receive any of the books. I received a couple of screenshots of the refund he was going to pay back into my account, but we’ve had less than £600 back from him."

Photographer Peter Morgan was subcontracted by Mr John for more than a year without knowledge of the allegations surrounding the businesses, and says he was even offered a directorship at one of the printing firms. He adds that while working alongside him, Mr John handled all business dealings for multiple companies and frequently referred to himself by different names to customers.

He too claims to be owed around £1,000.

An open letter signed by around 50 of the companies' previous customers and suppliers has called for the pair to be banned from having directorships.

Barry & District News were able to contact nine former customers of the companies, of which four said that they had never received their orders at all. A further three contained errors or were not to the agreed specifications, while all of those that did arrive did so at least several weeks late.

Our investigation also uncovered that it was not only customers who had been left out of pocket. Two former suppliers came forward to say that they were owed in excess of £36,500 by the firms.

Artur Broks, from Latvian-based printing firm United Press, said that 'The Printing Press' (registered name Printed Books Ltd) had originally appeared a reliable customer and paid for their first order up front. But after agreeing a deal with a gentleman known only as 'Malcolm' for bulk orders to be invoiced, they subsequently failed to pay United Press nearly £10,000.

Polish print company Djaf claim they are owed more than £27,000 by 'The Printing House UK' (registered name Houseprint Ltd), which was declared bankrupt just a few weeks after they commenced legal action against the company. A further continental firm said they too had undergone a similar experience, but would not divulge the amount owed.

There is further evidence suggesting that a customer testimonial was doctored by one of the firms. Tab Kimpton, whose order from The Printing House in January last year arrived three months late, sent them an email that was subsequently cut and used as a positive review on their website, omitting negative comments that Mr Kimpton had made. This, said Mr Kimpton, was done without his permission.

Mr Kimpton has since been awarded a full refund of his expenditure with the company in a county court judgement at Manchester Civil Justice Centre in December, but he is yet to receive any of the money owed.

The aforementioned The Printing Press also displayed logos for Chelsea Football Club, Bentley and Santander bank on their website. All three companies confirmed having no knowledge of either Mr John or any of the businesses in question.

Cardiff and Vale Trading Standards confirmed they previously investigated the business practices of Mr John and Ms Hunnisett in 2016 and looked into the directorships of four companies – Ambeck, Tyson Media, Houseprint and Masterclass Associates – connected to the pair, although they found no grounds to take action.

A spokesman for the Vale of Glamorgan Council said: "Enquiries relating to both Cardiff and the Vale were made into Neill Stuart John last year, but no tangible evidence was discovered prior to their then company, Ambeck, going into liquidation."

Mr John declined to respond to the specific allegations put to him by Barry & District News, but said he was not responsible for any difficulties the companies have suffered.

"My opinion of (Litho Printing) is that (they) appear to have a volatile business model bringing high quality, inexpensive printed goods from places such as Serbia and Kazakhstan and appear to suffer the unsurprising difficulties associated with brining in time sensitive bespoke goods from places such as these," he said.

"Nonetheless they are a bona fide, legitimate business that I understand have recently undergone a business restructure which has clearly left them with some issues that require attending.

"That’s their problem, not mine."

Mr John is currently listed as the sole director of Printing Books Ltd on Companies House, while Ms Hunnisett remains registered as a director of Tyson Media Ltd and Houseprint Ltd, both of which are in liquidation.