A court case to fine and ban the directors behind the £42m failure of the Farepak hamper firm collapsed this week, provoking further bitterness among the savers caught up in the long-running saga.
The Insolvency Service had been seeking disqualification orders in the High Court against the seven directors who were executives of Farepak or its parent company European Home Retail (EHR) when it collapsed just before Christmas 2006.
According to administrators, the firm got into trouble after a string of profit warnings and a £33m loan to EHR was not paid back.
But the five-year Farepak investigation was abandoned after new evidence showed that HBOS turned down the option of placing £4m in a ring-fenced trust .
Farepak Victims' Committee chair Louise McDaid, 48, from West Kilbride, said she was ‘gobsmacked' by the trial's collapse.
"We have wasted even more taxpayers' money trying to get some action and some justice here. Yet again, it is us, the victims, who lose out."
"We need more consumer protection to stop this happening again - the voucher industry is worth £4bn a year, so if one company went bust, it would have a huge impact on consumers, and there would be no protection for them.
"Things need to change - we will keep on fighting."
The collapse left almost 120,000 largely low-income customers out of pocket by about £37m.
The former bosses of Farepak, including Sir Clive Thompson, a former president of the CBI, were contesting the disqualification applications.
The Insolvency Service said in a statement that the proceedings had been discontinued on the advice of counsel. "This decision is based on consideration of evidence given to the court to date," it said.
The court had previously heard that senior HBOS bankers referred to savers' cash in Farepak as "Doris money" in a series of emails.
And it also emerged that HBOS, had twice refused to protect the £4m saved by customers, mainly on low incomes.
This meant that in 2006 when the firm collapsed into administration their cash was used towards repaying the bank's £31million loan rather than refunded to Farepak's vulnerable customers, many of them elderly.
Vince Cable, the business secretary, said he was "deeply disappointed" and felt "huge" sympathy for "those who lost out".