"2 Feb 2001 : Column 603
As I had encountered no bad cases myself, I wondered what the Bill was about. However, once I had talked to trading standards officers in my area, Derbyshire, I realised why no cases had been referred to me. The fact is that the scams often require relatively small sums from a large number of individuals. The operators feel that they can rely on complaints not being made, and on the loss being written off to a bad experience. As my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield said, many people just see themselves as mugs and feel that they were stupid to be taken in. John Logan, who was caught by one of the many scams of Simon Stepsys of Win-Star Direct in Cheshire--who, having been caught out by the Office of Fair Trading, had to make a "voluntary" statement that he would not continue his scams--produced a cogent account of his experience. He said:
"After a protracted delay, I received the material and eagerly opened the envelope. My hopes were high. After all, I wasn't looking to get rich, just earn a few extra quid. It took about all of thirty seconds to realise that I was just another mug!"
John Logan did not make a complaint. He just felt stupid, tore up the material and chucked it in the bin. It is because many people react in the same way that cases are not referred to us, and stronger legislation is needed.
Derbyshire's trading standards department tells me that, although the complaints it has received represent only the tip of the iceberg because most people feel too stupid to say anything and the sums involved are often small--though they add up to a huge amount--it received 38 complaints in the last financial year alone. I want to mention three of those scams, because I think that the more variety we see, the easier it will be for us to identify the problem with which we must deal. "