Published: 06:00, 27 June 2019
| Updated: 17:11, 27 June 2019
A company offering families the chance to meet a unicorn is under fire after a number of events were cancelled at the last minute.
Unicorn Dream is selling tickets for events across the country, including one in Maidstone from August 10 and 14. The precise location of the majority of events is kept secret “so that our unicorns can avoid crowds”.
Customers receive an email 30 days before the event with more specific instructions, the site claims.
Mum-of-two Kate Howell from Maidstone paid £158 for tickets to take her daughters, aged five and three, to an experience in Reading on June 2, but when they got there they found an empty field.
Unicorn Dream event organiser Darren Rocket said an email had been sent to customers saying the experience had been cancelled, and was followed up by phone on June 1, but Mrs Howell, 40, insists she never received such a message. He said Mrs Howell was also contacted two weeks before the event.
He also said she received three emails before the day, which he claimed she "ignored and travelled anyway."
Mr Rocket also said Mrs Howell also received complimentary tickets to another day out and a VIP upgrade, in addition to her refund.
Action Fraud has since received a report which is being assessed.
The company strongly denies the accusations of wrongdoing. It advertises a number of different packages on its website where youngsters can groom and ride horses which are coloured and dressed up to look like the mythical creatures.
Mrs Howell said: “My girls were naturally distraught their dream experience had been shattered and we’d driven for an hour-and-three-quarters for nothing.”
The plug had also been pulled at the 11th hour on a number of other Unicorn Dream events nationwide as recently as last weekend in Hull.
Mr Rocket said there were a number of different reasons for the cancellations, including complications with animal welfare licences and local authorities not running events by relevant residents’ groups.
He added that all refunds were processed within 28 days, in line with the company's terms and conditions.
One event in Camden in north London did go ahead earlier this month but was slammed by visitors for not delivering what was promised online. Mr Rocket said last minute council changes had prompted the move, but that everyone due to attend was informed and offered refunds if they did not want to go.
Mrs Howell has since received a full refund but says she had to chase the company for the best part of a fortnight to get her money back, despite Mr Rocket’s claims the process was done “immediately”.
He insisted anyone who had a similar experience would also be entitled to a refund but denied claims made by multiple sources that dozens of people were still chasing repayments and was adamant the events listed should still be going ahead as planned.
It has also been claimed that images belonging to a small party business, including those of the owner’s children, are being used on the Unicorn Dream site, for which permission was initially granted but has since been revoked.
The Kent Messenger has seen emails dating back to April requesting they be removed but they are still visible.
Mr Rocket initially said it wasn’t an issue he could comment on, before adding later: "We have not received any written request to remove the pictures by email, the last correspondence was that we would be receiving more pictures."
A spokeswoman for Action Fraud confirmed a report had been made which was being assessed by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. Mr Rocket has told KentOnline no crime has been committed and the company has spoken with Action Fraud.
He added: "Many companies will face similar disputes. Thousands of event organisers cancel events. No crime has taken place. Our terms and conditions state people will be contacted by email should details change. Events were cancelled due to government legislation regarding animals changing and delays with stables receiving the right certification."
More by this authorTom Pyman