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Embattled business Little Masterpiece Studio leaves customers angry

Every fortnight since April 2012, Kylie Whitfield has made a payment of $60: a contribution towards a $3500 package of photos and memorabilia she ordered after the birth of her first daughter Chloe.

Chloe is now four years old and Ms Whitfield is yet to receive more than half of the goods she ordered.

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"The package included photos, a photo disc, four canvases, three photo books and three [acrylic] photos. I made my final payment in August last year."

Ms Whitfield, from Cessnock, is one of many parents to have experienced difficulty in receiving goods from baby photography business Little Masterpiece Studio Pty Ltd.

The company, which promises to capture "your child's innocent charm...for a lifetime," has been the subject in a peak in complaints made to the Department of Fair Trading.

Little Masterpiece Studio Pty Ltd provides photography shoots for babies and children in shopping centres around Australia, offering photo packages worth up to $3500, including everything from photo prints to iPads.


But recent customers of the 30-year-old company are claiming they have been "scammed" and "ripped off" by the business, after many failed to receive photo packages and goods ordered and paid for on lay-by.

Martin Comer, who stepped in to manage Little Masterpiece Studio when it began experiencing financial difficulties, said there is a simple reason for the recent customer dissatisfaction.

"There is no money," he said. "We've gone broke."

He said around five years ago the company was in "dire straits," and the founder and then-owner Rita Winkler asked him to assist in winding up the company.

"I said, it's not quite as simple as that, because you've got all these [customers] on lay-by. You've got employees with long term superannuation, long service leave. You can't just close it down like that."

Ms Whitfield said when she called Little Masterpiece Studio to seek out her order, she was told the company had had "staffing issues, lots of issues."

"I've used them three times previously, but then I only ever ordered photos. Now I'm feeling a little bit pay and get nothing at the end [except] the photos...which aren't worth $3500," she said, adding, "I'm my child's biggest fan, but the photos aren't worth $3500."

Another customer, Keeli, said she had used the company four times previously to her most recent $500 order last year, photographing her three children Ayla, 5, Bria, 7, and Leland 2.

"Aside from their prices, which are a rip-off, it's always been fine."

She said she waited up to seven weeks for her goods with little information, but said they finally arrived last week. 

Wollongong mum Alexis Amour recently received her photo prints, at which point she said she was "happy with results so far," but later found that the CD she ordered was missing. 

"[This] is extremely disappointing because the photos they did in black and white look dreadful. I'm really pissed about this entire situation...Yes I'm happy that I received part of what I paid for, but I will not be satisfied until [all customers] receive all their items."

The customers are among almost 120 parents who have joined a Facebook group called "Scammed By Little Master Piece[sic] Studio."

A number of parents joined the group after it was set up by two customers following a television report which revealed customers had experienced difficulty contacting the company in search of their orders.

Mr Comer said he had spent the last few weeks "trying to do the best to look after people," despite it being "seven months since I drew a salary."

He said he had no "obligation to the business" but was helping to make sure all customers received any products or refunds they were owed before liquidators were appointed and the business shut down.

Amid the many complaints, the Facebook page also reveals a number of parents who have been reassured after speaking with the company and receiving products owed.

"I just spoke to [someone] in the studio. She was very helpful and a lovely lady to speak to and was happy to resolve any issues. It may take a while to get through tho [sic] so be patient," said one mother.

A spokesperson for NSW Fair Trading said it was able to confirm Little Masterpiece Studio Pty. Limited ceased trading in December last year and LMS Studios Pty Ltd had taken over.

"A representative from LMS has advised Fair Trading they will be honouring outstanding orders placed with Little Masterpiece Studio Pty. Limited," she said.

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