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Brian Pomeroy publishes review of Christmas hamper schemes

Brian Pomeroy publishes review of Christmas hamper schemes

HM TREASURY News Release (37/07) issued by The Government News Network on 28 March 2007

Brian Pomeroy, the Chairman of the Financial Inclusion Taskforce, has today published his review into Christmas hamper savings schemes, which was commissioned following the collapse of Farepak. The review argues that these schemes are valued by many, particularly low-income, households, but that it is essential that money paid in advance to hamper scheme companies is properly protected. However, the review also argues that it is important that there is genuine consumer choice and encourages mainstream financial services providers and major retailers to compete in this market and recommends that more is done to inform and educate consumers about the advantages and disadvantages of the range of Christmas savings options available to families.

Brian Pomeroy said:

"This is a market which has operated for many years and provides as many as 700,000 families with a useful way of saving. However, it is vital that more is done to protect its customers and ensure genuine choice for those who want to save for Christmas."

The review recommends that:

* The DTI should urgently ensure that secure arrangements are put in place by hamper scheme companies in order that customers' prepayments are effectively protected.

* The Office of Fair Trading should consider whether there are any competition issues that need to be addressed in the hamper scheme market.

* Retailers should consider increasing the attractiveness of their Christmas savings schemes by giving customers greater protection in the event of the loss or theft of cards.

* The Government should encourage providers, particularly the Post Office and the credit unions, to compete in this market and to develop innovative ways of attracting hard-to-reach customers.

* Informal savings schemes should be given greater emphasis within the scope of the Government's financial capability and inclusion work, including the Thoresen review of generic financial advice, the DWP's "now let's talk money" initiative and the FSA's financial capability work.

* In view of the uncertainty that has been caused over Christmas savings schemes, and the risk that this may prevent people who would otherwise have saved for Christmas from doing so, the Government should consider mounting a specific campaign to make consumers aware of their options.

* The Government and its relevant agencies should ensure they become aware of, and well informed about, all methods of saving, whatever legal form they take, and that they consider them when thinking about risks and consumer protection. The Government should also take steps to improve the data available on the hamper scheme market and other forms of informal saving, possibly through the Family Resources Survey or the new Wealth and Assets Survey.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. In November 2006, the Economic Secretary asked Brian Pomeroy to investigate the Christmas savings market to look at the reasons why people opt to use hamper schemes and similar vehicles instead of mainstream financial services products and, in the light of this, to consider how the savings needs of this group of consumers might be better met.

2. Brian Pomeroy is Chairman of the Financial Inclusion Taskforce. He was formerly Senior Partner of Deloitte Consulting and now holds a number of public, private and voluntary sector appointments. He is Chairman of the Payments Council and a member of the National Lottery Commission (having been its Chair in 1999/2000 and 2002/3) and of the Audit Commission. He is a trustee of Money Advice Trust, which works to provide advice for people in debt, and a board member of the Social Market Foundation. Past appointments include serving as Chair of Centrepoint and of Homeless Link, the umbrella body representing the homelessness sector. He was a member of the government's Disability Rights Task Force, and a non-executive director of the Pensions Protections Investments Accreditation Board.

3. Copies of the report are available at http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/pomeroy.

4. Non-media enquiries should be addressed to the Treasury Correspondence and Enquiry Unit on 020 7270 4558 or by e-mail to public.enquiries@hm-treasury.gov.uk

5. This press release and other Treasury publications and information are available on the Treasury website at http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk. If you would like Treasury press releases to be sent to you automatically by e-mail you can subscribe to this service from the press release site on the website.

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