A shop screen company previously supported by Booker has left a dozen partnered stores facing court summons over missed payments.
Screen provider Viewble Media, later described as a ‘Ponzi scheme’, had originally arranged for small businesses to sign lease agreements with finance company Grenke of around £10,000 in return for digital advertising screens.
Viewble Media promised to promote the products sold by stores on these devices and provide advertising payments to offset the lease costs. Instead, both Viewble and its successor, Rhino Media, collapsed, leaving stores thousands of pounds in debt.
Last month, Grenke refused to comment when asked how many stores it was currently taking to court for non-payment, but a leaked list of cases brought by Grenke was later seen by RN.
The document showed 58 small businesses currently have court claims against them, including 29 convenience stores or newsagents. Of these, 12 – more than a third – are Premier stores.
Premier’s promotions and advertising material were made available to Viewble Media and Rhino Media Group, which reps from the “fraudulent” firms then used as evidence that their screens were endorsed by Booker.
Challenged in October 2019 on its involvement with the scam, Booker said it had “not recommended” Rhino Media Group to its customers or partnered stores.
However, Premier retailers named in the list of stores facing legal action have claimed Booker had also allowed Viewble Media to set up screens and target its customers in its own cash and carries. One store, accused by Grenke of owing it more than £20,000, told RN: “There were two Viewble Media screens up, one in the entrance to the cash and carry and one above the cashpoints where you pay. That’s when I was approached by reps for Viewble Media. I don’t blame Booker, but seeing the screens in the depot suggested they were backing the service.”
Another said they were “roped in” to the scam at a Viewble Media stand allowed to operate inside a Makro cash and carry in October 2018.
RN spoke to a staff member at the depot who confirmed they had witnessed this take place.
A third Premier store said they were forced to pay £4,000 to settle out of court earlier this year. “Premier literally put its name on Viewble’s screens, but when we were in trouble, they washed their hands of it entirely. I want to know the full extent of Booker’s involvement.”
A Booker spokesperson said: “Thank you for bringing this to our attention, however we are unable to comment on ongoing litigation.”
Viewble Media, Rhino Media Group and Grenke have denied all claims of fraud and misselling.