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15/06 26 January 2006
A Swiss company has given an assurance to the OFT that it will no longer distribute to UK consumers a letter predicting bad luck, imminent danger and severe abuse for those who failed to respond.
The letter in question purports to be from a 'Clairvoyant-Medium' and 'Grand Master of Occultism' named 'Morgan T.' Whilst identical letters were sent to a large number of consumers, each was personalised to the recipient to make it more convincing. The letter states that 'Morgan T.' has foreseen a 'silent threat' to the consumer, which it describes in alarming terms, and offers them protection from this threat if they order a product costing £17. It also states that if they order this product, the consumer will be shown how to win more than £100,000 and implies that they can claim a prize of £7,000 by responding to the letter. In fact, a response only allows the consumer entry into a prize draw.
After receiving more than 30 complaints from consumers across the country, the OFT's Scambusters team wrote to ETLA S.A., the Swiss company behind the letters, expressing its concerns over the threatening and potentially misleading content of the letters. ETLA responded by assuring the OFT that it had ceased distributing the mailing to UK consumers and would not do so again.
Since the start of last year the OFT has received 166 complaints about so-called 'Clairvoyant' letters.
John Fingleton, OFT Chief Executive, said:
'This letter was designed to take money from vulnerable consumers by distressing, frightening and misleading them. The OFT will continue to take vigorous action against those who target vulnerable consumers.'
Tips for consumers: if you receive similar letters
1. The OFT is a member of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), as is the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) in Switzerland. Where UK consumers are affected by businesses operating from Switzerland, the OFT will liaise with SECO in relation to consumer protection issues that may arise as SECO have recourse to legal sanctions against businesses operating in Switzerland.
2. The OFT has identified scams as a priority area for the next three years and last year launched the 'Scambusters' team to deliver the OFT's strategy of enforcement, consumer education and cooperation with public and private sector bodies (see press release 175/05).
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