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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 March 2007, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Protection for hamper scheme cash
Closed gates at Farepak depot
Some people lost as much as 2,000 when Farepak collapsed
Money paid into Christmas savings schemes, such as the failed Farepak hamper business, will now be protected following a government review.

The hamper industry has agreed that from now on customers' savings will be kept in ring-fenced accounts.

The Treasury review was carried out after 150,000 people lost an average of 400 when Farepak failed last year.

The Office of Fair Trading will find out if there is enough competition in the Christmas savings market.

"Ring-fencing contributions will ensure that customers' money can only be returned to customers and agents should the company go bust," said Consumer Minister Ian McCartney.

"Families will then be able to put something aside for Christmas in the confidence that their money is safe and there will never be another Farepak," he added.

Sarah Miller of Citizens Advice welcomed the plan.

"It is essential that people's money is protected properly in the future to prevent the misery that thousands of Farepak customers suffered last year," she said.

Farepak

The Treasury review did not look at the reasons for the collapse of Farepak or suggest ways for regulating hamper and voucher schemes.

These issues are being examined by the Department for Trade and Industry and the Office of Fair Trading.

Farepak's administrators, BDO Stoy Hayward, concluded recently that the collapse of the business was caused by the fact that 33m it lent to its parent company, European Home Retail, was not paid back.

But in the light of the company's collapse the government wanted to know who saves with these schemes, why they use them, and if conventional savings organisations could offer a better deal.

"It is clear that many people, particularly those on low incomes, have valued the kind of scheme run by hamper companies because they have provided a convenient and disciplined way of saving for Christmas and helped keep them out of debt," said the report's author Brian Pomeroy, chairman of the Financial Inclusion Taskforce.

Changes

Other changes are being made following the Pomeroy report.

Among them are:

  • an advertising campaign highlighting alternatives to Christmas voucher or hamper clubs
  • the launch of a Christmas savings account by the Post Office.

"To ensure that customers are fully aware of their saving choices I have today asked the OFT to conduct a 1m awareness campaign," said Economic Secretary Ed Balls.

"Nobody in the future should suffer the hardship that Farepak customers endured last Christmas," he added.

The report also suggested that retailers should make their own Christmas savings schemes more attractive by improving the security of their members' savings cards.




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