The Co-operative Group has today (Monday 28 January 2013) launched a new savings scheme trust, becoming the first retailer to protect customers paying into a saving stamps scheme.
The trust, which claims to set a new benchmark in consumer protection following the Farepak collapse, has been created to provide additional security to thousands of Co-operative Food customers using the scheme, many of whom buy stamps to help spread the cost of Christmas.
Customers’ money will be transferred into a trust account (managed by an independent trustee), which will provide protection for their funds. There is heightened interest in such schemes against the backdrop of a retail environment where a number of high street names have collapsed, leaving their customers out of pocket.
The Co-operative said it has been working closely on the new scheme with representatives of the Farepak Victims Committee, set up after the Christmas club collapsed in 2006 and leading to nearly 120,000 people, many from low-income households, losing on average £400 each.
According to figures from The Co-operative, 12% of people say they will have already started saving for Christmas 2013, and using saving stamps is a popular and easy way for shoppers to spread the cost.
Co-operative customers can buy £1 stamps throughout the year, putting a little away each month, and anyone redeeming a full saving stamps book (with £48 worth of stamps) in store in December will also receive an extra £2 bonus.
Martyn Wates, deputy chief executive, The Co-operative Group, said: “As the UK’s biggest consumer-owned business, and a trusted and responsible community retailer, I’m pleased we have been able to respond to the Farepak Victims Committee’s request for a trust fund, and I believe this initiative will give our customers extra peace of mind, setting a new standard for other businesses to follow.”
Deborah Harvey and Louise McDaid, secretary and chair of Farepak Victims Committee, said: “We are over the moon this scheme is now ready for launch. With the recent collapse of a number of firms and the scandal of the vouchers not being honoured, we feel this launch proves The Co-operative really have their customers at the very top of their priorities. This scheme will protect the consumer and importantly protect the Christmas savings of thousands of hard pressed families.
“The Co-operative has joined us in pioneering this scheme right across the country and we are very proud that they have not only listened, but acted on everything we requested of them. To see an idea discussed over the phone by two friends from opposite ends of the country actually coming to fruition with a £13bn company is very humbling indeed. We would like to thank The Co-operative for doing what they do best and that is ‘putting the consumer first’. They are the only major retailer to do this, any Christmas savings stamps etc in any of the other supermarkets still remain unprotected. We fully support and endorse The Co-operative and we recommend that for this, and every other Christmas, The Co-op is the only place to save.”