Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260-279)


6 JUNE 2007

  Q260  Mr Fallon: Thank you. Can I just come back, finally, to this point about consultation? Have you consulted the credit unions on this PR campaign?

  Ms Cook: We have consulted the credit unions on the first part of the campaign and they have agreed to work with us on the dissemination of the consumer education programme.

  Q261  Mr Fallon: Have you consulted all the other providers?

  Ms Cook: Yes.

  Q262  Mr Fallon: You have.

  Ms Cook: Yes.

  Q263  Mr Fallon: And you have spoken with Park Group on this.

  Ms Cook: I said earlier on we have not with Park Group. I have talked to major retailers, we have talked to Citizens Advice, I can give you the list of who we spoke to, the BBA. We have also spoken to the DWP who are going to work with us to deliver the consumer education programme.

  Q264  Mr Fallon: What efforts are you making to target those particularly affected by the collapse of Farepak?

  Ms Cook: As I said, the PR element focused particularly on Farepak. You may have noticed we had a launch last Friday—

  Q265  Mr Fallon: I had not noticed your launch Friday.

  Ms Cook: Maybe you are not the target audience.

  Q266  Mr Fallon: How would I have noticed it if it was not advertised?

  Ms Cook: Because it was on national TV, it was on national news, it was included on regional and national radio. We had Farepak victims along to the launch, I think we had 15, we had a great deal of media interest, we had the BBC, Channel 4 interviews, and we also had a celebrity, Charlie Dimmock, who was the sort of person who was probably not the—

  Q267  Chairman: Let me try and clarify this because in your memorandum you talk about a 1 June national launch and then you go on to say it will be for short term savings for Christmas this year.

  Ms Cook: And it was.

  Q268  Chairman: 2007, and then you go on to say this will include "local and national PR and advertising", correct? In answer to Michael Fallon you have said the national advertising which you have mentioned in your submission will take place in December of this year.

  Ms Cook: Yes.

  Q269  Chairman: You have then said that that national advertising that is taking place in December is for 2008.

  Ms Cook: Yes.

  Q270  Chairman: But your submission to us says the launch in June this year will be to focus on short term savings for Christmas this year.

  Ms Cook: And it did.

  Q271  Chairman: I must ask you then, that was a mistake saying that.

  Ms Cook: It may be a mistake saying advertising but the launch did focus on savings for this year.

  Q272  Chairman: No, no, you are talking about national advertising; it was a mistake telling us that, so it was sloppy.

  Ms Cook: It was a mistake saying that the advertising was at that stage of the campaign.

  Chairman: It was sloppy. The fact of the matter is, is it not the case, Mr Williams, that you took on a brief when you should not have really taken on a brief?

  Q273  Mr Fallon: Quite right.

  Mr Williams: I do not accept that.

  Q274  Chairman: Because it takes eight months and you are going to spend in December this year. This is a waste of a million quid.

  Mr Williams: I am surprised you say that. I do not think it is a waste—

  Q275  Chairman: I will tell you why I am saying it, because it seems a shambles from your point of view.

  Mr Williams: I do not think it is a shambles from our point of view.

  Q276  Chairman: Tell me why it is not a shambles.

  Mr Williams: We have moved very, very quickly in a two month period to launch a national campaign to alert people to the issues with these products.

  Q277  Chairman: But you are spending your money on national advertising in December this year, and that has not got a hope in hell chance of getting to people who are involved in the Christmas savings market for this year, has it?

  Mr Williams: The point is we are trying to do something for the long term for this sector, it is not just about—

  Q278  Chairman: Then do not send us submissions in that tell us the launch is for the market this year; that is what I am trying to tell you. Your credibility is shredded when you do that.

  Mr Williams: If I may, what we are trying to do is not just for Christmas 2007, it is for a long term improvement in consumer protection in this area.

  Q279  Chairman: If that is the point, we are a Parliamentary committee, we deserve for it to be transparent. You should get your message out to a Parliamentary committee in a clear and transparent way and you have not done that.

  Mr Williams: I naturally apologise if there has been any lack of clarity in our submission, but the point that we are trying to get over is—we have launched very quickly, we have a commitment to make a long term difference, it is absolutely in line with the OFT's responsibilities for consumers as well as for competition and our responsibilities for consumer education.

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