HC Deb 04 March 1965 vol 707 cc1498-500
6. Mr. Dodds

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the result of his inquiries into the high pressure sales technique of the Universal Health Studios Limited; and what action he proposes to take to protect the public.

25. Mr. Alfred Morris

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will now indicate the outcome of his inquiries into the sales techniques of Universal Health Studios Limited; and if he will make a statement.

26. Mr. Rhodes

asked the President of the Board of Trade what has been the result of his inquiries into the high-pressure sales techniques and forms of contract being used by Universal Health Studios Limited, a branch of which has recently been opened in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

31. Mr. Hamling

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a further statement about Government action with regard to Universal Health Studios Limited.

43. Mr. Carter-Jones

asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the large number of default summonses issued in the county courts by this organisation, if he will make a statement on the result of his investigation into the activities of the Universal Health Studios Limited.

Mr. Jay

My hon. Friend the Minister of State made a full statement during debate on the Adjournment on 23rd February and I have seen the reports in the Press this morning that the company is being sold and that the sales methods will be revised. I have no information other than what I have seen in the newspapers.

Mr. Dodds

Does the Minister agree that the criticisms which have been made by hon. Members from both sides of the House, as a result of the confessions of members of the staff, are fully justified? Is it not a matter of deep concern to him that there are other Americans now fleecing the British public, who have been forced out of business in America because of their strong laws on this matter yet who are now able to carry on business in Britain because of our feeble laws? Would my right hon. Friend be cautious about the statement that this business has been sold? May that not be just another wangle to evade, for instance, the law on capital appreciation which may be the law of this land before long?

Mr. Jay

I deplore many of the selling methods practised by this firm and I have told it so. We have been told that they will be changed. We shall watch carefully to see what happens.

Mr. Hamling

Is my right hon. Friend aware that while, in the case of this firm, we may have overcome this difficulty, there are other firms also carrying out these practices, notably the Scheidegger Swiss Typing School, and that only this morning I heard of one case? Will he be good enough to look into the details if I send them to him?

Mr. Jay

Yes, certainly.

Mr. Rhodes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, only this week, Consumer Council representatives have received bitter complaints from people living in Newcastle-upon-Tyne who have virtually been bludgeoned into joining this club which has recently established headquarters in that city? Is it not extraordinary that these American sales techniques are invading this country precisely because American consumer protection legislation is so much more effective than ours? Will my right hon. Friend consider urgent legislation to drive these sharks out of the United Kingdom before the citizens of this country are milked? Newcastle is becoming a salesman's paradise.

Mr. Jay

As my hon. Friend probably knows, we are preparing major consumer protection legislation. I will take note of what he says.

Mr. Carter-Jones

What advice can my right hon. Friend give with regard to the use of default summonses by this firm? Is he aware that the use of a default summons in these cases, and the length of time during which it is held over the heads of people, represents a grave worry and a considerable expense to them?

Mr. Jay

As far as the existing law is concerned, I will obviously advise anybody affected to take legal advice. As soon as it can be done, we hope to improve the law.