Should I pay up for toys after collapse of borrowing service Whirli?

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I have a two-year-old and have been paying a £16-a-month subscription to the toy swap company Whirli.

The company went into administration last week and since then the communication has been shocking. It has written to customers asking them to pay the retail price for the toys they have at home.

There is now a Facebook group with more than 1,200 members. Those who had paid in advance for a six-month or one-year subscription are worried they have lost their money.

There is also a lot of anger over the amount quoted for the toys because they are not new. Whirli used to have a system that let you buy toys you liked at a discount. I have been asked to pay £73 or to return the toys: what should I do?

SW, Bristol

A Whirli subscription, which was billed as an affordable and sustainable alternative to buying toys, gave customers tokens they could use to borrow toys. When it failed it had 10,500 members, leaving a tangle for the administrators to unpick.

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The advisory firm FRP was appointed to handle the administration of Whirli on 11 May. There is no hope of a rescue, with most staff’s roles already made redundant.

There are broadly two groups of subscribers. One group – including you – have been left with toys of a higher value than they have paid in subscriptions to the company. This is why you have been asked to pay for the toys or send them back.

The other group, such as those who paid for several months in advance, are owed money by the company. They are not being asked to buy the toys, just return them, and are unsecured creditors of the failed company.

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Geoff Rowley, one of the administrators, said Whirli had an innovative offering but was loss-making and without fresh investment was unable to continue trading. “We’re now focused winding up its operations, engaging with customers and exploring options to sell the business and assets,” he said.

If you paid upfront for your subscription you should contact your credit or debit card provider to initiate a chargeback transaction. Before doing anything with toys, email customer services on or the administrators on to discuss your individual circumstances.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at or write to Consumer Champions, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number. Submission and publication of all letters is subject to our terms and conditions

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