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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 January 2007, 17:07 GMT
Bleak Christmas for hamper firm
Catalogue detail from Farepak website
Farepak: "Give your family the best ever Christmas"
As thousands of families face a bleak Christmas after a UK hamper company suddenly ceased trading, a BBC News website reader sent her experiences to the Your Stories site.

Customers of Farepak, owned by European Home Retail (EHR), paid money monthly to the firm or its agents towards food hampers for the festive season.

BDO Stoy Hayward has now been appointed administrator of the Swindon firm.

It said Farepak was "unable to honour its commitments to make deliveries of any vouchers, hampers or other items" to its tens of thousands of customers.

'Real regret'

Farepak, which also sold TVs, electrical goods and jewellery, employed 35,000 agents across the UK and had been trading since 1969.

Shagun Dubey, joint administrator and business restructuring partner at BDO Stoy Hayward, said: "We have conducted an immediate review of the Farepak business and it is with real regret that it has been necessary to cease trading."

The latest developments have been posted on the Farepak website and will be updated on Friday, 20 October.

We had no indication that anything like this was about to happen
Farepak agent Marisa Cavarra

However, it is clear that customers are not going to get their goods or gift vouchers that they have paid for over the course of the year.

Their only hope for some sort of recompense is to put in a claim for compensation from any assets that are realised in Farepak.

"You will have a claim against the company in administration and the joint administrators will be writing to the agents about this as soon as possible," a BDO statement for Farepak customers said.

Trade body the Hamper Industry Trade Association said the situation was "extremely unfortunate".

It said there were "a number of circumstances that affected Farepak's demise" that it was investigating.

Meanwhile, Farepak agents holding customer payments that have not yet been paid to the firm have been told to return them to consumers. And customers who paid by direct debit to Farepak should now cancel those.

'Out of the blue'

One agent is BBC News website reader Marisa Cavarra, 69, of Rhoose, Vale of Glamorgan, who has been with Farepak for nine years and sent her story to the Your Stories site.

She has lost 300, and told the BBC: "We had no indication that anything like this was about to happen.

"I paid my money last month and there were no warnings that there were problems. Now this has come with a bang out of the blue.

"Fortunately, I only have two customers, but they have lost hundreds of pounds each too. It is the worst possible time, with Christmas so close."

Shares in parent firm EHR had been suspended in August, after funding difficulties.

On Friday, home shopping firm Findel bought a number of EHR business assets, including sports outfit firm Kitbag and network marketing firm Kleeneze.

If you have any story ideas - send them to the BBC using the link below and have your say!

One Christmas hamper customer's story

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