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ATG have learned of the problems encountered when dealers send items overseas through companies who use the addresses of other couriers in order to gain a free listing on the online directories.

Islington-based costumes and textiles dealer Meg Andrews came across one such company when trying to send a package to the USA containing a valuable pair of cotton trousers from c.1815.

The company in question, The Courier Company, who also trade as International Express Couriers, appeared from their online listing to be based in North London.

They collected the package on October 11 and took a cheque for £38 for three-day express delivery, plus insurance of £40, which was cashed shortly afterwards.

When the parcel failed to arrive over a week later, Meg Andrews made an enquiry and was told by John Porter of The Courier Company that it was being held in US customs and the consignee’s office had been informed. When she checked, however, this did not appear to be the case.

Over the next five weeks, Meg Andrews made further attempts to contact the company but was repeatedly unsuccessful. At the time of going to press, the trousers had still not arrived at their intended destination.

When ATG approached Mr Porter, he said he would look into the matter, but we have yet to hear back from him.

Further research has revealed that Mr Porter’s company has also used the store addresses of the packing and shipping company Mail Boxes Etc, who have now taken action to have his details removed from the Yell.com and Thomson online directories.

In a statement to ATG, Mail Boxes chairman Simon Cowie said: “We became aware earlier this year that our store addresses were being used by an individual named John Porter. We have no connection with this man, nor his businesses, and have not authorised his use of our addresses.

“We believe that he uses these in order to circumvent regulations of online promotional websites which require a local address to be provided before businesses can be listed, free of charge.

“As a company strongly committed to our customers in the fine art and antiques trade, we use only reputable carriers for shipments we handle. All of our stores are listed on our website, www.mbe.co.uk, and can also be accessed through phoning 0800 623 123.

“We would strongly advise caution in dealing with unknown traders online.”

The Courier Company should not be confused with another company of the same name based in Milton Keynes.