5 Years on….

Unfairpak have now been campaigning for over 5 years following upon the demise of Farepak Food & Gifts Limited which went into administration on Friday 13 October 2006.

We have achieved a lot since that fateful day including a highly successful media campaign which has kept the plight of Farepak victims in the spotlight. We held a very successful demonstration and delivered a petition with thousands of signatures plus emails from MSPs who were boycotting the HBOS Christmas party outside HBOS HQ in Edinburgh with extensive media coverage. We secured one of the largest debates in the House of Commons, with standing room only. We also secured a debate in the Scottish Parliament. We worked in conjunction with the Farepak Response Fund which delivered vouchers from Park Retail Limited to the value of 17.5 pence in the £ to customers of Farepak and also managed to deliver almost 19,000 hampers prior to Christmas 2006.

Our National Campaign Co-ordinator, Suzy Hall worked extensively with the OFT and Northern Ireland Consumer Council in the Save Xmas Campaign and took part in the launch both in London and Northern Ireland.

In 2007, we were honoured to be nominated and in fact win the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards Public Campaign of the Year 2007.

Furthermore, in 2007 The Christmas Prepayment Association of which Park Retail Limited, Variety Christmas Savings limited and the Post Office form part, was set up to replace HITA (The Hamper Trade Association).

HITA was set up years ago and companies had to pay a £100,000 bond. This was put in place to prevent rogue traders setting up business and running off with customers’ monies at the end of the year. It was never an association that could have dealt with Farepak’s demise and hence the reason that in 2007 the then DTI, along with Ministerial support, were instrumental in the formation of the CPA and the Code of Practice was vetted by Government lawyers.

The Association has six directors, three from within the industry and three who are independent. Our National Campaign Co-ordinator, Suzy Hall is Independent Director of Consumer Affairs. The chairman is an independent director and has the casting vote.

All members of the CPA must adhere to a strict Code of Practice. It is mandatory for all members to have independent trust accounts which are held outside the members’ business and administered by trustees. Money cannot be removed from these trust accounts without the approval/authorisation of trustees. In the very unlikely event that a member went into administration all monies within the trust accounts would be ring-fenced from the administrator. The trust deed is comprehensive and was prepared by a leading law firm and again, vetted by government lawyers.

The Independent Director of Compliance ensures that each member’s compliance with the code is regularly reviewed by an independent firm of Chartered Accountants.

The CPA has now traded for more than 5 years and during that time has offered greater protection than many other businesses who receive customer payments/deposits. Please see www.cpa-advice.co.uk for further information.

Our National Campaign Co-ordinator, Suzy Hall and Linda Gray, member of Unfairpak represent the Agents and Customers on the Farepak Liquidation Committee.

Payments worth a total of £240,000 were sent out by the Liquidators in 2009 to 5,900 customers whose money was put into trust by Farepak Food & Gifts Limited just before it went into administration. Legal proceedings had to be started regarding the trust monies as the Trust had not been set up correctly by the Directors and BDO had to go to court to enable them to return money to its rightful owners. HMRC were represented in the court case, as were the agents and customers by Suzy Hall.

The Liquidation Committee can confirm that an action was issued by the Liquidators, BDO, against the Directors of Farepak Food & Gifts Limited. We can confirm that this action has been settled with no admission of liability by the Directors. A figure of £4 million has been received by the Liquidators, BDO.

The Liquidation Committee were presented with evidence by the Liquidators, BDO, which led them to instruct the Liquidators to investigate further 3rd parties in hope of raising the dividend for creditors as a whole. At the present time, the dividend currently stands at approximately 15 pence in the £.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, instructed the Insolvency Service to lodge an application in the High Court in February 2011 to look towards disqualifying 9 Directors of Farepak Food & Gifts Limited.

“The application was made in the public interest on the grounds that the conduct of each director in relation to the relevant company or companies makes him or her unfit to be concerned in the management of a company,” the Insolvency Service said in a statement.

Unfairpak can confirm that Joanne Ponting and Stephen Matthew Hicks (2 former directors of Farepak Food & Gifts Limited) have accepted voluntary disqualification. Ponting and Hicks, according to Companies House, have been banned under Section 7 of the Company Directors’ Disqualification Act 1986, which relates directly to “unfitness” to act as a Director.

Ponting has been banned until February 2014. Hicks has been banned for 3 years. Both disqualifications began in November 2011.

In spring of this year, the remaining 7 directors will be in the High Court in a government backed move to disqualify them from being directors. A spokesperson for the Insolvency Service said: “Disqualification proceedings against Farepak directors are now before the courts and a hearing date has been set for this spring. We have already accepted undertakings from two of these directors”.

Unfairpak will, of course, be following this case closely and reporting up to date information on same.

In the meantime, if you require any help or advice, please visit our forum at http://www.unfairpak.co.uk/forum.

In terms of the Liquidation of Farepak Food & Gifts, again, Unfairpak will keep you updated on this as far as possible due to both representatives being bound by a confidentiality agreement.

If you have not yet lodged your claim then please do so, in writing, to the Claims Management Team, Farepak Food & Gifts Limited – In Liquidation, PO Box 3404, Swindon, SN2 9EQ.

Likewise, if you have changed address, please notify the Claims Management Team, in writing at the address as aforementioned.

If a customer or agent has died, please send a copy of the death certificate to the Claims Management Team, again at the address aforementioned.