The UK’s first “cashback” website, which paid money to shoppers every time they made a purchase, has been wound up in court by its creditors.
Stratford-upon-Avon-based entrepreneur Richard Yendall founded Rpoints in 1998 and built it up to be one of the biggest websites of its kind in the country, with more than 100,000 registered users.
He stepped down as a director in 2007 when the firm was sold, but returned to the helm in July this year after a public falling out with the previous directors conducted on the website’s message boards.
Mr Yendall is now focusing on a new venture – a cashback website called iMutual which also gives customers shares in the company every time they make a purchase.
He said it was sad to see the demise of Rpoints, which operated two websites: Rpoints.com and Cashbackkings.com.
“It’s a company that I set up in 1998. Before it started offering cashback it had one of the first money-saving forums on the web,” he said.
“From that point of view it’s sad, but then again I see iMutual as a natural successor with a lot more potential so hopefully something even better will come out of its demise.”
Rpoints ran up thousands of pounds of debts with creditors, including HMRC, and was served with a winding-up petition from its landlords in November, which it did not contest.
The company, whose base was moved back to the Midlands from London this year, is now in the hands of the official receiver.
Cashback websites offer a service where shoppers click through to retail sites from the cashback site. The retailer pays the cashback site commission, which it shares with the shopper, who then has to wait until they can claim the cash, often several weeks later.
The collapse of Rpoints means customers who have been left unable to claim money have been added to the company’s creditors. The number of those left unable to claim their cashback is “a small fraction” of users, according to Mr Yendall.
Mr Yendall has been involved in internet ventures since the early days of the dotcom era.
He ran a site called Carpetbagging.com in the late nineties when the UK saw a wave of building society demutualisations creating windfalls for long-term members as well as for opportunistic individuals opening accounts who later became known as “carpetbaggers”.
The site campaigned for demutalisation votes and advised people on how to open share accounts with UK building societies, as well as organising resolutions on converting from a mutual.
Mr Yendall said an idea from the dotcom era – where some internet service providers gave away free shares to customers – had provided inspiration for the concept for his new website iMutual.
He sees iMutual as a “quasi-mutual” cashback site which will encourage users to take ownership of the site.
“The concept is going one step further than offering cashback,” he said. “It passes on 100 per cent of its cashback to its members but also gives them ownership of the company.
“Ninety per cent of shares are allocated to the members. Every time they do something through the website that generates revenue for the company they are rewarded with shares in addition to their cashback.
“The idea is to form a quasi-mutual organisation which will become a consumer cooperative to negotiate deals for its members.
“I think its pretty unique in following that model.”
Shares aren’t tradeable, but Mr Yendall said shareholders could vote for directors and also stood to benefit if the company was ever sold or paid out dividends.