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Ipswich mum ‘held hostage’ over payments to SmileDirectClub despite firm going bust





A mum says she is being held ‘hostage’ over teeth straightening payments after an online dentistry firm went bust.

Kimberley Whyte, 35, from Ipswich, decided to sign up with SmileDirectClub in March 2023.

She agreed to pay £1,639 over two years - £68.90 a month - for retainers to straighten up her bottom teeth.

Ipswich mum Kimberly Whyte is having to pay hundreds to SmileDirectClub despite the online dentistry firm going bust last year. Picture: SWNS
Ipswich mum Kimberly Whyte is having to pay hundreds to SmileDirectClub despite the online dentistry firm going bust last year. Picture: SWNS

But the company then filed for bankruptcy in December 2023 - leaving a significant number of customers in the lurch.

Mum-of-three Kimberley, a singer and hairdresser, is now paying out for a service she is not receiving.

She says the worry is causing her sleepless nights and her teeth are still not straight.

Kimberley is a singer and hairdresser. Picture: SWNS
Kimberley is a singer and hairdresser. Picture: SWNS

Kimberley is still on the hook for £805 with Tabeo, through which she financed the plan.

She said: “I’m frustrated that companies can treat us like this especially with the cost-of-living crisis - I just wanted to treat myself.

“It’s left me really angry and wondering what I do now because I have to pay the debt.

"It's horrible - I feel like I'm being held hostage. Something out of my control shouldn't affect my credit rating.

The mum-of-three is now paying out for a service she is not receiving. Picture: SWNS
The mum-of-three is now paying out for a service she is not receiving. Picture: SWNS

“I’m in exactly the same place I felt about myself before but now I have to pay for something that I can’t fix.

“It’s impacted my confidence and self-esteem. As a singer I would even say I probably don't do as many gigs as I should because I don't want to get up on stage.

“My teeth are wonky and if I hadn't paid for it, I’d understand.

In total, she agreed to pay £1639 over 24 months – working out as £68.90 per month. Picture: SWNS
In total, she agreed to pay £1639 over 24 months – working out as £68.90 per month. Picture: SWNS

"But I feel like I’ve been conned into paying for something that’s worse than when I started.

“I’m due to keep paying until January 2025, they basically have you trapped.

"If you miss a payment that affects your credit rating and I’m hoping to apply for a mortgage soon.”

Kimberley decided to splash out on the dental treatment as she felt self-conscious about her teeth.

In total, she agreed to pay £1639 over 24 months – working out as £68.90 per month.

And when SmileDirectClub went under in December, she followed Martin Lewis’ advice to continue making payments and contact the lender directly.

However, she says credit provider Tabeo have denied her appeal to have the payments written off, saying she has to make all remaining payments or her credit score will be impacted.

She claims Tabeo said she had not fulfilled SmileDirectClub criteria by not complying with Smile Checkins and not ordering replacement retainers on time.

But Kimberley said she couldn't meet the terms, as she claims she was repeatedly sent incorrect aligners and had to wait for them to be rectified.

She says she feels the situation is unfair and she’s been having sleepless nights due to the stress.

“I’m up until 4am knowing the money is coming out and trying to work out if I can afford for it to,” said Kimberley.

“It means I can’t spend anything on myself for the next year pretty much, as a mum I don’t buy myself things often anyway, this was my one specific treat.

“I don’t even care about getting the money I’ve paid back, it’s having to continue paying that makes me feel threatened.”

A spokesperson for Tabeo said: "We wouldn't be able to comment or discuss individual cases other than with the customer.

"However, we understand and appreciate that customers of Smile Direct Club may be feeling worried and confused right now.

"Any customer who took out a loan through Tabeo but has part of their treatment outstanding can contact us directly.

"Our experienced team will handle their request in line with our standard policies. Where a customer has a loan which is regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974, we are processing their requests for refunds in accordance with the contractual terms between them and Smile Direct Club."