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OFT campaign aims to avoid another Farepak disaster

LONDON - The Office of Fair Trading has today rolled out a regional awareness campaign, backed by radio and bus advertising, to educate consumers about the best ways of saving money in the run-up to Christmas.

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The £1m campaign, which launched this morning in the North East of England, has already broken in Scotland, the North West and Northern Ireland, the regions worst affected by the collapse last year of Christmas hamper firm Farepak.

More than 10,000 people in the North East lost their Christmas savings just two months before the holiday season when the Bristol-based firm went into administration in October 2006 and ceased trading after a series of profit warnings.

The OFT's 'Save Xmas' campaign, which is being run in conjunction with community groups and consumer organisations, aims to make consumers aware of their options when saving money for the festive period.

A series of face-to-face group sessions has been scheduled, in which advisors from Trading Standards and the Citizens Advice Bureau spend 20 minutes explaining the pros and cons of different savings approaches.

The talks include presentations, a short film and an information pack urging consumers to make comparisons and balanced judgements and assess the levels of risk.

Sue Cook, the OFT head of consumer and business education, said: "This campaign will give people the tools they need to make choices that best suit their needs when saving for Christmas.

"Thousands of people lost money after Farepak collapsed and we want to work with communities to help people to get lasting knowledge and skills about short-term saving."

According to estimates from accountancy giant Deloitte, the average Briton spends almost £400 on Christmas gifts -- a nationwide total of almost £17bn.

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