A group of dental customers have been left frustrated and confused after a chain of private dentists closed without warning – with many having paid thousands of pounds in advance.
Finest Dental, which had seven branches across the country, has ceased trading yet hasn’t formally gone into liquidation yet, leaving thousands of customers not knowing where to turn and unsure of where they stand.
One reader, Katie-Jayne Flynn, said she only found out that anything was wrong after she walked to her London surgery to see a sign in the window.
She was due to have an appointment that week but had received a text saying that it was postponed due to ‘technical issues’ the surgery was facing that resulted in the practice ‘not being safe’. No other appointment time was suggested.
Finest Dental have closed their practices across the country without giving any explanation
Katie tried to contact the firm to reorganise but the phones were never answered so she decided to take a look for herself.
When at the Liverpool Street practice she saw a sign in the window advising customers that estate agents had taken ‘peaceful possession’ of the unit.
Details were given on how to contact the Finest Dental team but again these numbers just rung out and no one answered. No further information was given.
Katie is currently halfway through her treatment for Invisalign braces and has already paid £2,000 to Finest Dental for the braces via monthly installments.
She said: ‘The treatment itself has been very good. I’ve had two dentists the whole time I’ve been here and the second one I’ve had for the majority of the time.
‘The practices had felt like they were getting quieter but I do usually go at odd times in the day so didn’t think anything of it.’
Worryingly, the monthly installments are still set to come out of her account to make up the next £2,000 she owes and she has been advised by her bank not to cancel these yet.
Note: The sign left in the window of the Liverpool Street branch of Finest Dental
One thing that did strike Katie as odd was, when she initially signed up to the dentist, it was advertised as having a free consultation where a £50 deposit had to be made first.
However, after they took the deposit, it took Katie six months to get it back as they kept putting her off.
She said she wasn’t initially too fussed as she had started treatment and figured she could just take it off her final bill at the end but now that is looking unlikely.
After realising that the dentists were clearly no longer operating, Katie decided to look online to see if she could find out anymore information.
Understandably, she was very concerned as she had no official information from the dentists themselves and she wasn’t sure where to turn for advice.
Desperately trying to find out more information, Katie took to Twitter where she found herself directed to a private Facebook group of Finest Dental customers, all of which were in a very similar position to herself.
One member has even said she has spent over £20,000 so far on treatment that is not yet completed.
Worryingly, after speaking to members within the Facebook group, Katie found that Finest Dental had recommended numerous finance providers to their customers, rather than just one.
It was also suggested that Finest Dental stopped paying rent on its Liverpool Street property, meaning the landlord took back possession of the property but the firm made no effort to warn their customers of this move.
Katie was confused when she couldn’t find out any information about the closure (stock image)
Fortunately, this landlord received the deliveries of braces that had been made for customers and contacted as many of them as he could so they could collect what they had paid for.
However, other patients of other surgeries haven’t been so lucky and have still not received any of the goods they have paid for.
Under the advice of fellow members, Katie contacted the Financial Ombudsman, AffordItNow, who her finance plan is with, and the General Dentist Council who were unable to give her anymore information than she already knew.
Katie said: ‘I also contacted Invisalign but they were just as in the dark as everyone else.’
Finest Dental eventually addressed the issue on their website, saying: ‘Dear Patients, although we have worked tirelessly to ensure the immediate continuation of the practices for both staff and patients alike, unfortunately at this time we are still in the process of agreeing suitable options for patients to continue treatment.
‘We are currently speaking to a selection of other dental operators to negotiate the continuation of patient care as well as approaching existing patient finance providers to request support in opening sites and continue existing patient treatment only.
‘We will update the Finest Dental website as soon as a solution is found.’
This was posted over a week ago and no adjustments have yet been made.
Many patients are still turning up to their appointments, unaware that the whole chain has shut down as there has still been no information given directly to the customers.
As the company has not filed for liquidation, it has left its many customers in limbo and means they have all been advised by their banks to continue with their standing orders as, officially, the company is still trading.
This means that customers are still having money taken out of their bank accounts – but not receiving their appointments or treatments.
Others have already paid thousands in advance, meaning they are left out of pocket, without knowing if they will get the service they paid for – or their money back.
Some are midway through their treatment meaning they will have to find alternative dentists but pay again for any services they receive.
This is Money tried to contact Finest Dental but all phone lines were cut off.
We also contacted PayBreak, trading as Afford It Now, one of the finance companies to see what patients paying monthly through them should do.
A spokesperson said: ‘We have recently been made aware that Finest Dental is not currently trading.
‘Unfortunately, we are unaware of any plans the business has to communicate with or support its customers.
‘However, PayBreak will ensure that it meets its regulatory responsibilities as a finance provider and would advise that any customers concerned about their finance agreement should contact us where we will be able to assist based on individual circumstances.’
Many patients are still turning up to their appointments, unaware the practices are shut down
Meanwhile, the General Dental Council, an organisation that regulates dental professionals, said they were aware of the situation but couldn’t comment on it publicly.
It did say, however, it is advising patients to pursue local resolution first which consists of contacting Citizens Advice, the CQC or asking for legal advice.
It added that, for those who have paid money towards their treatment or their treatment has started, they are advised to contact their bank.
Additionally, they can also make complaints to the GDC website.
A spokesperson from the British Dental Association, the registered trade union organisation for dentists, said: ‘The sudden closure of Finest Dental has left staff without jobs, and many patients facing difficulties midway through a course of treatment.
‘We are awaiting an administrator to be appointed to wind up the company’s affairs.
‘Finest Dental would be responsible for making appropriate arrangement for incomplete courses of treatment and so once an administrator has been appointed patients should ask them about what arrangements they intend to put in place.’
The Trading Standards Service also said they are aware of the ongoing situation.
Other patients have taken to social media to voice their confusion and frustration at the circumstances.
One user said her elderly mother has had £3k taken so far but received no treatment yet
Another user said the company was a ‘disgrace’ after it didn’t inform patients it was closing
This Twitter user asked for help after they were unable to get through to the practice
One user questioned how the company ‘had got away with this’ after disappearing
Another user claimed that the deposit for a consultation fee was taken and not returned
Katie, and many other patients, are now waiting for Finest Dental to file for liquidation so they can start the process of trying to retrieve their funds, or be given permission to cancel their standing orders.
They are also waiting responses from the Financial Ombudsman whilst some patients have even reported the company for fraud, on the grounds it was still taking money despite knowing it was soon to be closing down.
However, in the meantime, it seems that the owners of Finest Dental have now started a new company called Boutique Smiles, suggesting they could be looking to open a new chain of private dentists.
Those who have found themselves in this situation are advised to contact their finance company and their bank for more information.
They are also encouraged to make a complaint to the General Dental Council, who can investigate any issues.
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