CASH-STRAPPED Swindon families left out of pocket by the collapse of hamper firm Farepak have had their case taken up by the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI).

DTI Minister Ian McCartney had a private meeting with South Swindon MP Anne Snelgrove after she raised the plight of Farepak customers in the House of Commons yesterday morning.

Mrs Snelgrove urged the DTI to take action to help the families hit by the Farepak crisis at DTI question time.

Addressing the Commons, Mrs Snelgrove said: "Farepak, which is based in my constituency, collapsed this week robbing thousands on low incomes of their Christmas savings.

"My constituents used Farepak to avoid falling into debt and many have lost thousands of pounds. Does the Minister agree that this stinks?

"Will he meet the administrator to get the insolvency service to look into it thoroughly to take action against the directors if needed."

In response, Mr McCartney revealed that he is set to meet with Farepak administrators BDO Stoy Hayward and the British Retail Consortium this weekend to discuss a way forward.

And Mrs Snelgrove admitted after her meeting with Mr McCartney that the DTI Minister is as keen as her to help those families affected by Farepak's liquidation.

She said: "I was very relieved to be called in DTI questions because it is the luck of the draw whether you get to speak. I was hoping for some good news from the Minister and the reply I got exceeded my expectations.

"I learned in the meeting that Ian McCartney is obviously as determined as I am to do something for the families.

"My first priority is to get help for the families in Swindon, then for the future I want to look at ways to provide protection to consumers, so that this never happens again.

"I am keeping in close contact with the Minister about how we can do this."

BDO Stoy Hayward was last night unable to provide any clues as to when Farepak customers may find out whether they are likely to receive any refunds.

A spokeswoman said: "We don't have any updates at the moment. Obviously, if we do receive any new information we will release it as soon as possible."

It emerged last night that Farepak customers could receive part of a £100,000 bond the company paid to the Hamper Industry Trade Association (HITA).

HITA was established in 1983 primarily to monitor the standards and services provided to agents and customers by its members.

HITA's Neil Henderson-Begg, said: "The £100,000 goes to the customers. It is a bond in favour of the Hamper Industry Trade Association and no creditor will come anywhere near it, although the most effective way to pay it out will be via the administrator, when he comes to repaying the agents."

"HITA is, however, committed to working with the administrators in an attempt to ensure the information provided to agents and customers is timely and as comprehensive as is possible.

"HITA also has a number of concerns and questions surrounding the administration of Farepak that it will be seeking answers to."

Adver readers have reacted with sympathy to the 100,000 Farepak customers and agents, who have lost all of their Christmas money.

In a phone and internet poll in Tuesday's paper, we asked whether readers thought a compensation scheme should be set up for those people that lose money when companies go bust. Eighty per cent of those who took part said they thought a scheme should be available.

  • Read all about the Farepak Fiasco and the campaign for compensation.

  • Tell us about your Farepak experience and read about other people's here.