Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Saturday, 2 December 2006

Farepak - a way out for some ...

... there was an interesting segment in today's Money Box programme on Radio4. Basically it seems that anyone who made payments to Farepak using a credit card is protected under the Consumer Credit Act for non-delivery of merchandise paid for. Certain debit cards, for example Visa/Delta cards, are also protected. There is no similar protection, however, for payments using cards issued under the 'Maestro' brand.

A few of the experiences recounted on the programme made interesting listening. Initially certain of the credit card issuers and banks tried to 'hum and haw' that no refund was due after using their cards or that any refund might take several months, but persistence paid off and one woman (who was from Glasgow if I recall accurately) recovered over GBP10,000-! The credit card companies and banks have been rather reticent about bringing this to the attnetion of those who might benefit, but it appears that a number have now agreed to write to their own customers.

If you know of anyone affected by the collapse of Farepak you could do worse than to let them know of this possible 'way out', depending on how they made their payments to the company.

As a 'middle-class' person the mindset of people who make use of Christmas savings clubs has always been obscure to me, when I have thought about it at all. Nor is it particularly easy for someone like me to understand fully what it is like to have to 'scrimp and save' for every little luxury and the pressures this can cause - and the actions such pressures can convince those affected to take, such as using this method of saving rather than putting the money into a savings account in a bank. A family member advises that a friend of hers was an agent for Farepak and that the friend, along with about a dozen people for whom she acted as agent have together lost well in excess of GBP10,000- ; I daresay there are many people around the country like me who have no personal experience of this method of 'saving' for special events, but who have people in their circle of acquaintances of friends, colleagues or employees who are affected.

NB/ I have been wanting to write a major post on the 'Farepak scandal' for some weeks and have in fact been doing considerable research, poring through publicly available financial reports, on the Christmas savings club sector. The reasons I have not so far written about it are twofold:
- an unwillingness to bring about what I, and presumably most others, fear; the collapse of, or loss of confidence in, other companies in the run-up to Christmas;
- a reticence about writing anything that might be considered actionable.
The clue to all this is that Farepak is not the only organisation involved in this trade and whilst the media have covered [at least one of] them superficially and sporadically over the past few weeks, none of the media have, to my knowledge, investigated them in any depth; perhaps they have the same reasons for reticence that I feel I have.

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