Pensioner faces debt threat from out-of-the-blue food parcel
A BARTON pensioner has warned people to be wary of a European food parcel scam that threatens victims with visits from debt collectors if they do not pay up.
The package delivered out of the blue to Brian Sherrad (82) contained items including olive oil, spaghetti, olives and sun-dried tomatoes – along with a receipt purporting to be from Italian firm San Lorenzo for £73.
Mr Sherrad told the A&T: “It had been my wife’s birthday on the Saturday so I thought it might have been my daughter who sent it. I rang her, but she said ‘no, it’s nothing to do with me’.”
The receipt in the box warned the firm would not “accept any opposition” made after 14 days of the delivery date and it would expect the amount due.
After his daughter told him about scam warnings online, Mr Sherrad contacted Citizens Advice but it could not act as San Lorenzo was outside the UK. It referred him to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) for UK European Consumer Care.
The CTSI, he added, advised him to write a letter to the company declining the order. It also advised Mr Sherrad to tell the company any future contact should be in writing and not made over the phone. He has done so, and is awaiting reply.
However, the CTSI warned it had “no power to require action from the trader” and consumers may have to go through the courts.
“I thought, ‘what the hell is going on if they have no powers’ when I read that,” Mr Sherrad said. “What can they do and what do they do?
“Because [the company] targets overseas people, a lot of trading standards bodies cannot do anything about it and they are probably going to be getting away with it.
“The prices in the box are exorbitant. I pay about £3.80 for a litre of olive oil – the one in the box is half a litre and costs over £9.”
Mr Sherrad formerly worked in personnel at major companies before running his own business teaching negotiating skills.
Online reviews for San Lorenzo include angry consumers describing a “scam” with elderly relatives also being sent unsolicited packages of food.
Those who took no action say they were pursued by the firm for months afterwards and “besieged” by letters requesting money and threatening action through debt collectors.
The amount of money requested by the firm increased in each subsequent letter, they add.
“Online there are lots of people saying it’s a terrible company and they pursue you. They are obviously attempting to pressurise people,” Mr Sherrad said.
“It seems to me the only way of stopping this type of thing is publicity. A lot of older people won’t be online so to my mind they will not know that this is a scam.
"They also may not know you have to do something and, of course, people do run out of patience and sometimes just pay it.”