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Press releases 2002 -

First aid kit scam stopped

First OFT cross border action

PN 23/02    29 April 2002

A scam involving unsolicited first aid kits has been stopped by the OFT.

In a ground-breaking cross border case, the OFT, working closely with the Dutch Consumers Association (Consumentenbond), used its recently acquired European enforcement powers to take action against Royal Consulting, a Dutch company which had been sending unsolicited first aid kits to UK residents accompanied by demands for payment.

Such activities are in breach of the Distance Selling Regulations. Consumers who receive unsolicited goods may keep them and demands for payment for such goods are unlawful. The OFT had received over a hundred complaints about the company.

The OFT has obtained written assurances from Royal Consulting BV and its parent company Royal Consulting AS, that they will not make demands for payment for unsolicited first aid kits. Any breach of the written assurances will lead to action in the Dutch courts.

Under the Stop Now Regulations the OFT has the power to apply to the courts in another EEA country for an order where a business based in that country is breaching legislation comparable with the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 and thereby causing detriment to UK consumers.

John Vickers, Director General of Fair Trading, said: 'Companies based in other European countries can and will be pursued by the OFT if they breach consumer protection legislation. This case illustrates how our enforcement powers can protect UK consumers even when suppliers are based overseas.'

Any consumers who receive demands for payment for unsolicited goods should contact the European Enforcement Team (1W) at Fleetbank House, 2-6 Salisbury Square, London EC4Y 8JX (email euroteam@oft.gsi.gov.uk).

NOTES

1. Royal Consulting BV is based in Marksingel 2f, 4811 NV Breda, Netherlands.

2. Under Regulation 24 of the Distance Selling Regulations, it is an offence to demand payment for unsolicited goods or services supplied to consumers, or to threaten legal action for recovery of such payment. Unsolicited goods can be treated as a gift.

3. Under the Stop Now Orders (E.C. Directive) Regulations, which transpose the EC Injunctions Directive (98/27/EC), the OFT can apply for a court order against traders who breach or are threatening to breach a number of laws harming the collective interests of consumers. It can seek written assurances and undertakings in lieu of court action. The publication of a list of 'qualifying entities', including OFT, in the Official Journal of 2 February 2002, meant that from that date, these powers could be exercised before the courts of all EEA Member States which had transposed the Injunctions Directive.

4. The Stop Now Regulations cover the following areas: doorstep selling, timeshare, unfair contract terms, consumer credit, distance selling, package travel, package holidays and package tours, misleading and comparative advertising, sales of goods rights, TV broadcasting activities and advertising of medicinal products for human use.

5. The Member States of the EEA (European Economic Area) are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.

6. The Charity Commission investigated complaints that representatives of Royal Consulting were selling first aid kits and other goods on the understanding that a proportion of the profits was donated to charity. Further information can be obtained from the Charity Commission.

7. Following complaints from UK consumers, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) took action against Delta Invo BV which was operating a premium rate information line for Royal Consulting. Further information can be obtained from ICSTIS.




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