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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 November 2006, 22:29 GMT
Farepak response ends off target
Catalogue detail from Farepak website
Millions of pounds were lost by customers when Farepak collapsed
The fund set up to compensate people who lost savings in the collapse of the Farepak Christmas saving scheme closed at 1800GMT on Wednesday.

About 150,000 people are estimated to have lost a total of up to 50m when the firm went bust.

The government launched Farepak response fund raised some 6m from firms and individuals - over 10% of the money lost, but far below target.

Organisers aim to deliver the money, in the form of vouchers, before Christmas.

Vouchers

They will be sent to Farepak agents - who handled payments on behalf of savers - by December 18 although this date may be brought forward.

Those affected by the Farepak collapse should receive some 15 pence for every 1 they had saved, based on the response fund.

The number of vouchers issued will relate to the amount of cash individual members paid into the scheme.

I am disappointed that we can't be giving more
Farepak response fund chairwoman Shirley Young

Administrators who took over the running of the firm after its collapse expect to pay a further 4p or 5p for every 1, some time next year.

Before closing, the fund saw British businesses contribute a further 172,400 while 62,000 came from individuals on Wednesday.

Brewing firm Scottish & Newcastle and financial services firm Smith & Williamson both stumped up 50,000 at the last minute.

In total, donations from the public added up to 342,000 by closing, of which two gifts of 10,000 came from anonymous donors.

The biggest contributor to the fund with a 2m donation was HBOS - the bank that lent money to Farepak's parent company and which has been criticised by many MPs for its role in the collapse.

'Disappointing'

Before the fund closed, Dumfries Labour MSP Elaine Murray, who urged political colleagues to contribute to the response fund, said she was very disappointed by the overall response.

FAREPAK HELP
0870 066 9826
www.farepakresponsefund.org.uk

The fund's chairwoman, Shirley Young, admitted she was also disappointed.

She told the BBC: "We have to remember that for some families what would appear to other people to seem a very small amount, it could make a bit of difference to how their Christmas will go.

The collapse of the company has hit some of our families who have saved hard for Christmas rather than borrowed on credit cards and from loan sharks
First Minister Rhodri Morgan

"So, we don't want to take away from that. But, obviously, yes, I am disappointed that we can't be giving more.

"The more we can give, the better."

In Wales, families who lost money will be able to apply for emergency loans, First Minister Rhodri Morgan has said.

The Assembly Government said it would underwrite the cost of loans from credit unions for those affected by Farepak's collapse.

A government spokeswoman said that people usually have to save with credit unions for six weeks before they can apply for loans.

Mr Morgan has pledged to fast-track the process by giving money to the Wales Co-operative Centre, although the amount has not been disclosed.

Loan sharks

A Treasury Select Committee report on Tuesday urged government action to ensure such situations do not happen in future.

The collapse of the scheme highlighted a "serious lack" of consumer protection, MPs said.

They called for more powers for watchdogs such as the Financial Services Authority and Office of Fair Trading to safeguard people's money.

Committee chairman John McFall said money paid into schemes like Farepak should be as safe as that deposited into a bank.


You comments

My mum has lost just over 500 which was supposed to be given to us to be able to pay for Christmas for my four young children who are all under 5. We are now having to rely on other members of family to help us out, but when you have been handing over 50 a month now knowing you are not going to get it back is seriously upsetting.
Paula Timms, Fleckney, Leicestershire

My sister was an agent for Farepak. She paid in 6100.00, 700.00 was paid in to the bank 2 days before Farepak went bust. I personally lost 1176.00 and have had to take out a loan with the Provident which will cost me 27.00 a week for the next 2 years.
Sean Colcombe, Ebbw Vale, South Wales

I should have received GBP 250 in vouchers from Farepak for Xmas presents for my children. Not only that but the tax credits dept have 'screwed up' my claim and I haven't received any money for 8 weeks. I'm at my wits end now and trying to negotiate to take out loans to cover my losses. I was hoping the fund would stay open longer but also that more MPs would have donated as this situation just should not have happened. I had no reason to think my money would not be safe.
Amy Longhurst, South Ockendon, Essex

Even as a Farepak customer, I didn't even know there was a response fund being set up, it wasn't very well advertised, it should be properly promoted and give another couple of weeks at least.
D. Dyer, Port Talbot

I am disgusted with the way they have handled the situation, in that they have known for ages that they were going bust but just kept collecting people's money. As far as I am concerned this should be classed as theft as there is no other word for it, as this company has stolen our money, you might as well been robbed in the street as that is how much it hurts. I will never trust another hamper company as long as I live in case the same thing happens to them.

What do you tell a 5 year old girl, when all your Christmas money is gone and Santa will not be coming this year all because of Farepak.
Claire Healy, Luton, UK



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