. . . even if you set your Tuareg carpet on fire

The promise to reimburse credit card holders in respect of faulty goods bought abroad should not be confused with the purchase protection cover that many card companies already offer. This service, admirably promoted by comedian Rowan Atkinson in Barclaycard advertisements, is one of the "free perks" reflected in the overall charges you pay for your card.

Purchase protection covers accidental damage for a specified period - usually 90 to 100 days - where the goods are either broken, lost or stolen.

What the card companies are promising from this week is protection under the 1974 Consumer Credit Act for the amount of credit granted on foreign purchases. That covers what the Act calls breach of contract, where you either do not get what you ordered or the goods are not of a merchantable quality.

Some card issuers have not signed up to the voluntary agreement that covers members of the Credit Card research Group and those of the Association of Payment Clearing Services. They include Household Finance Company (GM cards), Save & Prosper, Beneficial Bank, and MBNA.

The agreement applies to overseas purchases on or after 15 May where the amount charged to the card is more than pounds 100 but less than pounds 15,000.