To have been given a chance to write an article for the Times regarding Farepak is something I would never have dreamed of. However, that is exactly what happened and here is the finished, printed, published article.
February 17 2011 12:01AM
On October 13, 2006, some 123,000 people had Christmas ripped from their hands when Farepak went into administration, taking with it £40 million of savers’ money. I was one of them. My family lost £1,000, but others fared even worse.
But at long last, all of us who, month after month, deposited our money with the Christmas hamper company might have something to celebrate. This week, the Insolvency Service began formal disqualification proceedings against nine former Farepak directors. These people are not fit to run a company; they deserve to be struck off.
The campaign group Unfairpak has fought continuously to have the directors brought to account for their incompetent, greedy, selfish and irresponsible actions. I firmly believe that the directors did not expect for one second that there would be an uprising of savers calling for justice. But now we can say that the voices of the “little people” have made a difference.
On August 23, 2006, the shares of European Home Retail, the parent company of Farepak, were suspended. Despite this obvious sign that the company was in serious trouble, the Farepak directors continued to take customers’ money — and ultimately the Christmases of thousands of children. Knowing that some of the directors must have been aware that Farepak was facing liquidation makes us savers feel even more that we were regarded with utter contempt by them.
During the weeks after the collapse, while Farepak savers were worrying about how we were going to pay for our families’ presents, we were subjected to images on TV and in the papers of the directors leaving their million-pound homes, even jetting off on luxury holidays. But the portrayal of savers as simply “poor people” or “financially illiterate” was wrong. Farepak savers were prudent. They planned ahead in order to avoid debts at Christmas. Despite this prudence, at the moment we are to get back no more than 15p for every £1 lost, although we hope that figure will rise.
The outcry over politicians’ expenses and bankers’ bonuses shows that society is no longer willing to sit back and let the “fat cats” get away with it any more. We are becoming a classless, less deferential society and the Farepak fightback is another example of how the voices of the “little people” will be heard. If any good can come from the debacle, this could be it. This week a loud message has been sent: no one is above the law and, though it may take time, justice will prevail.
Suzy Hall is national campaign co-ordinator of Unfairpak