giffgaff: co-operative fraud?

A previous writer had this opinion of matters… (Oh dear..!)

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#BeAlwaysTwentyOne – HUZZAH!

cooltext717196358   “Take a few off…” I said: to myself. (Wonders will never cease…)

“Void the brain of social media” [..secretly mocking what impending doom could result in the lack of, or, subsequent malaise of ‘..who cares’]

I am a sad git: a sedimentary one too, in case you’re wondering.

Look out..!! ‘South Down Man’ on the loose.

More like ‘Neanderthal Man Explores’ however. One thing though and this is not being churlish, when I lived in Spain: the amalgamated presence of ‘Brits’ was a good reason ‘NOT’ to go out on the prom. Walk on the other side of the road least your new friends – locals – get the wrong impression.

Since I’ve resolved not to pop off behind a wheel: not owning one, or even hiring one, my world’s my oyster-card – so as to speak. A ‘Busman’s holiday.’ So this year bundling all into a camper van – a semi-luxurious venture – was not an option.

I could take a static holiday i.e. go to one place for a set period and relive the tides of my childhood where and when every day was a new adventure, or move around. The latter made sense.

But hey, this really isn’t a holiday as you know it. Were that the case I’d be helping out at a local Iron Age dig before they let tides run rampage in a new whiz-bang idea of a sea retreat. Oh Time Team where are you, right up Phil’s woven fence street.

Add to that it’s just for a couple of weeks, what on earth could go wrong. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.

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So, with one option binned not even getting into the starting frame let alone a backwater thought, hostelries were put on standby. Plenty of course – at least I thought so. However, pure aghast!

The heady days of popping along to the idyllic village pub as one takes the rolling countryside before you is a hapless affair. Put simply, they’ve gone. Gone I tell you. Gone as the very transport needed to get me or you there.

But I shall seek the pub route, not in the towns or favoured resorts along the coast, been there done that. Well to most of them anyway.

The job is to find those odd ones, resemblant to a 30’s novel where dinner can be taken set times and afters – for bona fide residents – totally annoyed the locals unless you generously invited them to a snifter.

What indeed can a single pigeon do these days.

Well bugger this. I’m not playing tourist, certainly not in or on my own backyard. However, my backyard is somewhat of the limits of how far I can travel in a day, room and board and so on.

Well hapless it was. Chap only wants to recce a few locales with a view to put down roots, and you’re the ultimate alien.

I’m of the view now, you can’t just organise to stay the odd night  here or there unless you conform to absurd conventions and pre-set requirements.  I mean, who died and left ‘whom’ boss…!! So not on!

However, that’s not even the half of it.

It’s taken a fair few years for me to be a cantankerous middle-aged git, and idiosyncratic to boot. I was a middle-aged etc at twenty-one, come to think of it, I’ve always been twenty-one! I SHALL ALWAYS BE TWENTY-ONE. HUZZAH!!

One thing evidently transparent today, is whilst I work very well without one content to rely on an old-fashioned ‘mobile phone’, I now must accede to modernism and get a ‘Smartphone’ of some description. Bring on the kicking and screaming brigade. (Moi, never in a month of Sundays….don’t even think of it!)

Only went to look at properties, now see what you’ve done.

A purposeful task not needing anything other than prior arrangements being kept to. Then also there is the disconnected sense of transport in this country. I never had this problem when I used to open shops up and down the country, AND I used to stay at decent pub/hotels too.

Even I have to laugh at myself procrastinating and happy to stay at home only recently, but in my defence I WAS saying that from a sedimentary position of NOT needing to go abroad for a traditional get-away. Bring on ye trippers. Doom will happen come what may, invariably it does…and did.

Email holidays…ever such a good idea – pity I didn’t invoke the idea prior. As is a return to my own cooking. Save of two decent meals whilst on my travels. Perhaps I should have hired an RV…and a driver as well. Who’s being silly. We still have rationing despite what that nice Mr Macmillan said. So HELLO ALL, I’m back. I do so hope Mr William Hartnell improves in his new serial, I mean is he meant to talk to adults like he talks to children?

“SIM card Sir..?” WHAT…GiffGaff! No thanks… [nor should you]

From No More Excuses

How Simple Is This… 

Well… life rarely is. But the exercise of buying a new phone – a smartphone no less – can and did take on an awesome turn of events. In doing so exposed not only the minefield of choosing your SIM cards, but found a good ‘old fashioned’ commissioned based sales enterprise, in the process.

The phone itself is a story on its own which has done little to enthuse me, but it was necessity that required its purchase. A recent staycation of home hunting proved that.

Beginning there the whole sorry story started the weekend before the Bank Holiday just gone. On that particular Sunday and a day’s trawling the internet, I hastened upon the delightful Samsung Galaxy S III. This is an all-singing-dancing phone which is supposed to synchronise with your PC/laptop of choice.

Added to fact that it also came highly thought of by a very good Twitter friend and client Catherine, that’s @MummyLion to most of you,  AND that ASDA could do it for £285 – the job as they say was a good one.

At the same time I also ordered from her website the second part of this mystery tour into the unknown, THE SIM CARD!

The phone was expected to arrive within two days and the card within three. So lets pick up the trail when the phone arrived, as predicted two days later – and to be honest – so it should. Things then were on track to be fully operational before the Bank Holiday, which would be nice. However;

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Enter the race for the SIM.

Important part this, as this is purely a matter of signal strength, it is therefore reasonable for me to stay with my existing supplier [O2] or at least one who piggy-backed their signal. Nor was I looking for special ‘bundles’ with unlimited data or the like, so Pay-&-Go would do me fine and I could transfer over the old number and contacts etc, you’ve no doubt been there and got the tee-shirt.

Not that cost really is the problem here, but there’s no sense in paying for stuff that you wont be using, so enter into the foray Messrs giffgaff. It uses O2 [more of which in a moment] all it need do was turn up a.s.a.p. I mean what could be simpler than for someone to post it 1st Class on Monday? For the record, both items were effectively ordered on the Monday a.m. before the last Bank Holiday.

At worst the card should arrive within three days as I would reasonably expect

Here’s the first rub. Anyone can go into the many suppliers/specialist shops or even Supermarkets and buy a SIM card – NO DELAY! Wazz it in and away you go. (Not however with giffgaff) After all they the suppliers are in direct competition with the High St, and as it turns out themselves. Both O2 and giffgaff are owned by Telefonica.

The second rub is, by now I was livid as a long-serving customer of O2/Telefonica and the card was still in transit. Put simply…NOT GOOD ENOUGH. So how’s this for customer support, if you have a problem you are told only to contact an agent and a reply is usual within 24hrs. NO TELEPHONE NUMBER AT ALL.

They have committed RETAIL SUICIDE OF THE FIRST ORDER. The onus therefore befalls to a poor agent to take the brunt and immense displeasure of the public, many of which are friends and family.

But there’s more, remember my ‘new’ phone!

The delay elsewhere had not stopped me from charging up the beast ready to swing into action, Oh no. What this fantastic piece of technology is supposed to do would be to synchronise to my laptop. Easier said than done, sync means connect something which seemed alien in/by definition.

Of course it would charge, but swap files..NO. Downloading the panacea of all software designed to do the job – Kies – proved a fruitless exercise. As did trying to register the product with the Mother company to effect the guarantee. Something even which defied the expertise of the in-house customer support. (take note giffgaff…they had a telephone support team!!)

Odd though I could register to the Samsung site but not the product to the site.

Nevertheless, I scoured as many forum sites as I could to find a resolve to the issue, seemingly everybody else is awaiting an update/patch in the software – but when?! So I have a phone not performing as it should which primarily is  the main reason it was purchased, nor do I have a SIM card to make any calls. Total outlay £295 and I am now spitting feathers! So how did I send a picture to Twitter on the Wednesday of that week – I hear you ask!!

Well I had organised a separate contract for my wifi which would also permit my using my laptop should ever the need arise, thus the nation and the Twitter world were able to delight in my culinary skills.

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So, a quick summary.

Saturday: The SIM card arrives….actually thuds on the mat! The phone still has an independent viewpoint on connecting to my family group i.e. laptop. It has therefore forced my hand.

But nothing before today beats this. The bloody SIM card had a sting in its ‘tale’. Duly inserted, registered and validated by making the required payment [accounted for earlier] and ready t… NOOOO! Whatever they had sent didn’t register the new credit on it despite the now payment, meaning no calls, even dialling manually. Zero, sweet Fannie-Adams. It turns out that these cards come from Head Office, not via the agent link. And I’d have to wait 24hrs for a reply as to why..??!! (and should I want to reply to that….and so forth and so on).

And the conclusion.

Would you settle for a back-story to all this, for there is a humdinger just under the surface. It involves Tweets left right and definitely not centre. An opinion in which I believe I’ve found the nearest thing to a ‘Pyramid’ scheme you can get without calling it such.

All because a 21st Century company doesn’t want to have a telephone helpline. Such is all this I now call giffgaff […have you guessed?] ‘GaffGaff’. Translated…. A complete and utter shower!

I am afraid I’m to treat you all to a second instalment, the saga still continues. Unbelievable but true. Little did I know nor could imagine what basically is a simple thing to do, could be escalated into this barrage balloon.

#StandingCharges …anyone want to rant?

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…yes, that’s the PROFIT sorted then!

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How many customers I wonder have only just cottoned on, now their standing charges have gone up, they are paying exactly the same as commercial customers who are are on the lowest rate [by that you need only to be on a meter supplied with a 20mm feed]. Not many I suspect!

The key word here though is METER.  And of course you’d be forgiven for thinking,  ‘….if only it were that simple’. For it isn’t, nothing dare be. Not when it comes to water. Things also get complicated when you have a different supplier, and it’s their meter.

Well actually, …no! It’s not that complicated… but it is when you go looking for answers?! (Now there’s a surprise…!)

What isn’t so uncommon is that every six months I tend to rant on about this. Come Christmas and summer, when the bills come in, you’ll see a couple of tweets to that effect. This time however, it’s just downright taking the ‘P***’ [..and the irony hasn’t been lost on me, by the way] for we’re not talking supply here… but Wastewater!

What really gets my goat is that I, like many, have urged my friends and neighbours to get a meter, to be more water aware, and to see that what you use…. is what you pay for.

I’m right there aren’t I?

So let’s forget about the supply angle, save of the fact that another company supplied the meter which looks like this one;

  Meter

By-the-by, it took less than the six weeks I was advised of to have it installed. Which, all things considered nowadays seems pretty good going. It also has proved to me one thing, that as a single person you will save hundreds of £’s a year by having one. Even if you’re a small family you should save money. Now I know there are regional variations so don’t scream at me.  I’ve lived across five water authorities in the UK so far in my lifetime, so that is a fair comparison.

However, the one thing which disseminates this from all other is that, as a Domestic User on a meter, I along with everybody else now pays what a Commercial Customer would do per cubic metre, having the same 15/20mm feed to their meter. For everything here is based on volume in this game.

That means a healthy increase of 11.8p per cubic metre from the 1st April. Thankfully I am a low user in volume, and I mean low, nevertheless, we all get charged on 92.5% of the supply.

This though can be considered to be the lesser of two evils as un-metered households [as we were once] cost much much more. It does make you think twice about what you use. But what makes up ‘the standing charge’ that they don’t tell you about in the self-promo leaflet accompanying your bill? Time we looked again at the buried figures – which incidentally have been passed by Ofwat, so that makes it alright [not]. All this has been determined some years ago, there is no way the economic shambles of today could have been foreseen then although, having said that, had the water companies – without check – been allowed to have the increases they wanted…. it would be WORSE!

Well what they [Ofwat] were looking for boils down to basic stuff.

Components of the average bill

  • Operating Costs – the day-to-day costs of running a business;
  • Capital charges – the costs of improving and maintaining companies’ assets, such as treatment works, spread over the life of the assets;
  • The return on capital – interest payments, profit (including dividends) and tax.

What has to be remembered is that all this has been pre-decided. Not just for myself but ALL of you. In that ‘handy’ publication by Ofwat titled Future Water And Sewerage Charges 2010 – 2015. All 168 pages of it. It’s a get out of jail card in essence!!

This breaks down and indicates in no uncertain manner and in simple terms what projections there are, for your region/supplier to the last relative penny, and you can check this against ‘your’ region/authority/board’s previous accounts.

Regardless of all this and really what winds me up, as I suspect everyone else, is that whilst we are are spun/sold/beseeched to save water at every turn… those who do use the least are religiously stuffed by over pernicious charges. The only visible thing relevant is their profit at my/our expense. We don’t sit back and say thank you, well do we….!

That’s where the PR guru’s have failed big time. Everyone sees a price hike and looks at what profit they’ve made. And of course the tax they pay.

So why not rub it in, just save time and call us what we are not… a commercial enterprise, equal in prices charged. Up go the charges, and yet we are still witness to residual problems from last years floods, and the replacement of sewers across the region, pay yourself healthy salaries and make sure shareholders get their share too.

But be honest, howsoever predetermined, it really is just rubber-stamping their profit margin at our expense…AGAIN. Hosepipe ban anyone!! And a plague on standing charges, and the egit who devised the blasted idea/term/name. But why should people make a slam-dunk profit off the very necessity of life?

#Banks …not passing GO! – just yet..

From No More Excuses

Rounding up the strays..

It has taken a long time, and the cynic rightly can say that they were pushed into doing it. Either way it was going to happen, be it by this Government or the next – or probably worse, by Europe…which is going to clamp down anyway! Nevertheless, a report by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has still had its critics. Primarily from the banking sector and die-hards whom have never had it so good! Set up to investigate the LIBOR scandal, it pretty well has enveloped the ails of ‘banking’ in general – let’s face it… it would be hard not to!

The simple answer however, and this has taken over a year to bring together, is not exactly that simple. It is a good promissory band-aid for those demanding blood and at the very least ‘Stocks’ at every corner of the square mile. Form an orderly queue please!!

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The problem 

Too many bankers, especially at the most senior levels, have operated in an environment with insufficient personal responsibility. Top bankers dodged accountability for failings on their watch by claiming ignorance or hiding behind collective decision-making. They then faced little realistic prospect of financial penalties or more serious sanctions commensurate with the severity of the failures with which they were associated. Individual incentives have not been consistent with high collective standards, often the opposite.” – to quote the Committee’s report, actually sounds quite tame considering the length and breath of their considerations.

It is though, in my view, pound for pound very logical. Moderated by some of the press from the embargoed release, yet pounced upon elsewhere. This quote [below] however sets the tone;

“Banks in the UK have failed in many respects. They have failed taxpayers, who had to bail out a number of banks including some major institutions, with a cash outlay peaking at £133 billion, equivalent to more than £2,000 for every person in the UK. They have failed many retail customers, with widespread product mis-selling. They have failed their own shareholders, by delivering poor long-term returns and destroying shareholder value. They have failed in their basic function to finance economic growth, with businesses unable to obtain the loans that they need at an acceptable price. ”

Ultimately, they did reach various conclusions on how it is perceived how matters should proceed. Phrased as such the whole is more likely to be received in the ‘House’ with full cross-party support. In many ways, I’d love to see much – if not all of this – made retrospective for all those whom have been so cruelly wronged by those and their actions, and for the domino effects it has had . However this snap-shot of their thinking – particularly the latter which attracted the headlines – is a move in the right direction.

“The Commission envisages a new approach to sanctions and enforcement against individuals:

  • all key responsibilities within a bank must be assigned to a specific, senior individual. Even when responsibilities are delegated, or subject to collective decision making, that responsibility will remain with the designated individual;
  • the attribution of individual responsibility will, for the first time, provide for the full use of the range of civil powers that regulators already have to sanction individuals. These include fines, restrictions on responsibilities and a ban from the industry;
  • the scope of the new licensing regime will ensure that all those who can do serious harm are subject to the full range of civil enforcement powers. This is a broader group than those to whom those powers currently extend;
  • in a case of failure leading to successful enforcement action against a firm, there will be a requirement on relevant Senior Persons to demonstrate that they took all reasonable steps to prevent or mitigate the effects of a specified failing. Those unable to do so would face possible individual enforcement action, switching the burden of proof away from the regulators; and
  • a criminal offence will be established applying to Senior Persons carrying out their professional responsibilities in a reckless manner, which may carry a prison sentence; following a conviction, the remuneration received by an individual during the period of reckless behaviour should be recoverable through separate civil proceedings.”

For the full report, and it is worth reading even though lengthy. Here is the link. Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards – Fifth Report. Changing banking for good.

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Easy Money’

There’s no such thing…

The report has covered virtually all the evils of recent years, and looks towards the future such as portability. Basically matters which have been broached by Basel I, II, III. In themselves weighty tomes and caused much disapproval from the banking sector. Quite honestly, tough. These changes slowly being effected across Europe will make Banks stronger, but more importantly safer for the general public. There is one thing I would still advocate irrespective of all this.

Quite simply there is and will always be a need for a Basic Bank Account available for all. This report – although not mentioning it directly – brings this closer. Already many banks are realising this with some introducing varied types. If there is to be a restorative feeling towards ‘Banks’, the report in itself is no panacea. It does though point towards getting it right, and that will take time.

A major realisation will be the splitting of the banks into retail and investment.

Regardless of this though are those still bitter memories of the frauds allegedly [required] committed by those who rigged the Libor rate. It affected everybody and virtually every product on the market. Quite unbelievable. As were the shenanigans of the RBS. Committed in the investment arm of banking yet using the ‘whole’ to back up its mis-judgements. The act of Governments to bail-out this…AND reward failure with commendations, bending over backwards to accommodate such, leaves a very sour taste in the mouth. In mine and those who still believe in values and honesty.

What however cannot be accounted for is, indeed are, the woeful and multi-various forms of economics employed by Governments worldwide. Add that to self-defeating exercises in accountancy domestically, it is no small wonder we are where we are.

As a ‘bean-counter’ myself, this is painful. And I like to consider myself one the good guys!

One thing being addressed but under different banners are the mindless idiocies of Pay-Day Loans. If Usury isn’t brought back to statute I’ll be astounded. And yes, you can blame the attitude and happenings of banks for this to accumulate at the speed it has.

Not that there aren’t other factors involved, of course, but one thing sparks another. AND this isn’t a new phenomenon, all that’s happened is the ‘Loan-Shark’ has grown up so to speak. The original still exist, just at a lower and more menacing level. Some operate under every day household names, get featured on TV for dubious tactics…YET STILL… are permitted to ply their trade.

Selling off the family silver as we did, still do… never was the answer, never will be. Likewise, bailing out banks and to sell them back, again, at a loss, is plain bonkers. Sure new investors would love it, it’s a bargain! Not though for the original investors or the public purse. Wake up Britain! Wake up Chancellor, whatever your political colour!! First, bring these recommendations in as soon as possible in this session or next. Do not water them down. Last chance saloon, again, it appears!

Tales Of Snails And Property Trails

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#SnailGate #ShellGate #FaunaGate

It really is hard to think, that a flying visit to these leafy parts of Hertfordshire, can spark memories of all those housing and property scandals from not so long ago. Astonishing still that it could be still in turmoil. I mean, chap parks his space-ship on a day-trip from Mars and still we are caught in this time warp. Let’s face it, it really has gone beyond a simple planing matter.

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STOP THE TRUCK…..!!

This site, of which there are many up and down the land going through unenviable changes, by dint of political birthing pains and amputations, has developed into a full-blown ‘….GATE!’ of its own. Anyone been caught hiding in offices recently?

Well – and apart from the obvious ££££’s falling off the page – councils have a duty to protect, not to go at it hammer and tongs to flog off every last strip of common land. Particularly those bits of land which have been formulated over the decades and centuries for common usage. And maintained as such.

Some seven/eight years ago the saga of an allotment and adjacent field/open space grabbed the developers attention and that of everyone else too. Valued then at over a million the original plan for 42 flats was turned down. It set in train a series of events which has caused mayhem, anger, mistrust, and fundamentally the best ‘cock up’ since commercial television was launched (the opening lines were “…Welcome, and hello traitors!”).

Minded that I am of how bitchy and but-we-know-best  these things can get, the only people who are seduced by these actions are the faux-elite hell bent on rubbing other peoples’ noses in it. They have a death-wish upon upon all who stand in their way, and will happily use the moral high ground when all else fails. If it means side-stepping procedures or just plain ignoring them, sobeit.

All this mind, to evade the scrutiny and levelled criticisms which duly will be flung. Well SURPRISE! Here is some flinging.

I might add thoroughly deserved too. Chap comes all this way to have a chat with old friends, can’t park the ship because some tribe of vertebrae deem it a building site, the planet seriously has lost it.

The guys back home put together a rescue pack with apologies for running out of brown envelopes – apparently the currency might be a bit dodgy too…!

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Busted…!

The argument loses all political credibility when you have councillors serving on two councils and the same planning committees debating the same subject. Mud sticks, even if they do record an interest, yet stick their ‘oar’ in regardless to steamroller recommendations through.

What is worse, is making use of an Officer of the Council to delay/sit-on information from a Government advisory body recommending NOT… *NOT* to develop the land in question. Thus A LOT OF TIME, MONEY, ANGER, DUPLICITY, AND MORAL BLACKMAIL would have been saved. Unsurprising then for an official complaint.

Lo and behold, one complaint against the Town Clerk concerned – John Bagshaw. (just pondering how many more there will be and to whom in addition).

Allegedly then the question arises of when and where the ‘real’ decision has been made and who’s tripped over whomever’s tongue as they drooled over their project maturing.

Amazing what happens when people try and cut corners toadying up to their masters at whatever level. That ‘Rover’ you guys have sent up to our place should find the remains of the last race who tried it.

Quite remarkable really, when you think all this should never have happened thanks to our chums below

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Everything’s on hold

When the domino’s have been reshuffled you’ll find all the players (..bar the losers) will be off up the High Street like Barry Sheen. There are preferred developers waiting in the background positively itching for the first sod . However, there are so many people NOW not saying a blasted word, until decisions elsewhere have been declared – you can be forgiven for not knowing where the hell you are.

Everything so far leans towards it ending on the desk of the Local Government Ombudsman irrespective of outcome. Which would be too little…too late, and all the damage done.

#FaunaGate #SnailGate or #WaterGate you choose.

There’s been a whole lot of fauna-gating-going-on either way!

Me, I’m still following the money…even from Mars! Tell you what, I’ll do another few orbits until the next round of idiocy matures. Meanwhile  Bufo Bufo (below) just could have the final say (Martian humour)

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For more keep in touch with Carol Hedges lay advocate extraodinaire

Blog: Mr Perrin and the ATOS experience | Your Thurrock

Shared link: http://www.yourthurrock.com/2013/06/20/blog-mr-perrin-an

Date posted: 20-06-2013

“A Word in Your Ear” from Mr Perrin.

The Downing Street “Robber Barons” and the ATOS Healthcare “Gang”.

I recently accompanied my nephew, who suffers with chronic schizophrenia, to an “assessment” by ATOS Healthcare, in partnership with the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions [DWP], to determine his fitness for work.

I was appalled by the experience and considered the whole procedure nothing short of “state sponsored” harassment of people with serious physical disabilities or mental illness. They attend these” assessments” under duress and the” threat” that failure to attend could result in the loss of all or part of their disability benefits.

It fails to say that by attending they are also at serious risk of losing all or part of their disability benefits on the arbitrary assessment of an employee of a Company, paid by the Government, whose remit is to “force” the sick and disabled into work regardless of the consequences. These “assessors” know little or nothing of the history of the “client” and rely mainly on the answers given, by the “client”, on the day, to questions they have already answered in a form sent to them by the DWP some weeks or months previously.

My nephew received a letter from the DWP giving him the date, place and time he was required to attend and requested he arrive 10 minutes BEFORE the stated time, which he did. On arrival I noted that there were 20 “clients” already in attendance. My nephew informed the receptionist of his arrival and was immediately told that they were “running” late and that it was doubtful that he would be seen that day and a new date for his attendance would have to be made.

I protested and asked how late they were running and was told approximately one hour. My nephew’s appointment time was 1100hrs so we were prepared to wait in order to be dealt with that day. We were further informed that each appointment took approximately 40 minutes with a further 10 minutes to allow the assessor to complete notes. Assuming that each assessor would deal with 4 “clients” in the morning i.e.0900hrs to 1300hrs and, with an hour for lunch, 3 in the afternoon i.e. 1400hrs to 1700hrs there being 3 assessors available that day, 21 “clients” would be dealt with and as there were already 20 clients waiting when we arrived I anticipated that we would be the last to be seen that day at around 1600hrs i.e. 5 hours later than the actual appointment time.

Despite repeatedly being told by the receptionist that it was unlikely that we would be dealt with that day we were still prepared to wait in order to prevent having to rebook. The receptionist informed me that it did not work that way because there would be a further 20 “clients” arriving for the afternoon session so any morning “clients” not seen by 1200hrs would be sent home and rebooked. I could not believe what I was being told i.e. that probably 21 “clients” were being sent home daily and having to be rebooked at considerable cost to the taxpayer as many will have travelled a considerable distance, by car or public transport, and would be entitled to be reimbursed their travel costs, not just for that day but for any subsequent attendance. I “stuck to my guns” and insisted that my nephew would be dealt with that day and that he would head the list of the afternoon appointments which was, with some reluctance, eventually agreed.

At 1400hrs, 3 hours later than the original time of his appointment, my nephew was called to meet with the assessor, a young lady who I judged to be between 25 to 30 years of age, I deemed it would be impolite if I asked her to verify her age. However, bearing in mind that she was about to assess my nephew’s ability to work, I considered it justified and pertinent to ask if she was a qualified doctor or psychiatrist the answer was no on both counts and when pressed she stated that she was a “general nurse” with some training in “mental health care”.

So my nephew was to be assessed by a person who knows nothing whatsoever about my nephew as to how his illness and treatment affect him daily, other than what was given by the DWP, whose recommendation as to my nephew’s ability to work is based on a quick “question and answer” interview which the DWP, mindful of the Government’s “brief” i.e. get these “layabouts” back to work, will probably accept, ignoring the professional opinions and recommendations of his psychiatrist and GP who have known him and treated him for years and his “ family carers” who help him throughout each day. It is incomprehensible that such unqualified opinions should be given the same or even more weight than that of qualified professional s.

Based upon my own experience there are some serious issues that need to be addressed quickly regarding the treatment of “clients” summoned to these “assessment” interviews, especially , having heard from others who have attended at different assessment clinics, it would not be unreasonable to assume that what I witnessed is happening at assessment clinics all over the country.

The DWP needs to liaise with clinics and only make appointments for the number of “clients” each clinic can cope with daily. Re-bookings should be the exception not the rule thus saving a considerable amount of money due to having to pay travel costs more than once.

People should not be treated like cattle herded into a waiting room for hours only to be told that they will not be dealt with that day and that they will have to come back some other time. No consideration is given to the inconvenience and stress caused to the “client”.

I was troubled by the anxiety that permeated “clients” waiting to be “interrogated”, especially those afflicted by mental illness. The intimidatory atmosphere was made even more palpable by the presence of a person who one would normally expect to see on the doors of venues such as rock concerts and nightclubs, i.e. a “bouncer”, the purpose of his presence being all too obvious.

My nephew told me, had he been on his own, he would not have dared to remonstrate or dissent in any way fearful it would be interpreted as aggressive behaviour and he would have been forcibly ejected from the premises or at worst the police would be called and he would be arrested and probably sectioned.

This Government appears to delight in harrying those on benefits encouraging the view that most people on benefits are parasitical, lazy, workshy, fraudsters “living a life of riley” at the expense of the tax payer. The pleasure they seem to derive from this harassment conjures up, for me, the unseemly sight of people in red coats, mounted on horseback, shouting” tally-ho, tally-ho” as they indulge themselves in a “blood” sport at the end of which they rejoice in the “kill”.

It is shameful that the Government does not exercise the same enthusiasm when tackling the problem of tax evasion, a cost to the public purse on a par with or greater than the cost of benefits to the sick and disabled.

Frankly, I believe, the Government’s treatment of people on benefits, particularly the old, sick and disabled, borders on wickedness.

cooltext717196358   With thanks to ‘Your Thurrock’ – A full link is posted at the top of this post.

The perils of being a “vulnerable” benefit claimant

cooltext717196358  If you’ve read my #Atos posts recently… I’m sure this too will resonate.

Jane Young

JobCentre Plus logoToday, the Commons Public Accounts Committee published its report into some of the activities of JobCentre Plus (JCP), managed by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP). Despite being snowed under with other work, I’ve read some of the report with interest, since I know very well that sick & disabled people who are dependent on benefits are often treated very badly indeed by the system that’s supposed to support them.

As an aside, I dislike the word “vulnerable”, as it tends to be used in relation to most or all sick & disabled people, and there’s no automatic reason why people have to be considered vulnerable just because they happen to be disabled. However, I do think  most sick or disabled people who are dependent on benefits are made vulnerable by the benefits system itself, which is steadily becoming less supportive and more punitive. Indeed, in a meeting…

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Credit Card..? Still Valid When Expired?! ‘…LAZARUS’ !! #CPA’s Part II

From No More Excuses

Well it seems so…

After lengthy talks with the retailer concerned in this retail fiasco of using EXPIRED Credit Cards – for whatever reasons – it seems they intend to carry on happy with that format (their representative was based in the Phillipines just so you know).

Which is a woeful shame and pity (the practise not the place).

So we have a major impasse by a major worldwide retailer ready to flounce what Laws we have here in the UK – and the EU – and I suspect elsewhere too.

Quick recap then. MAJOR Retailer is using EXPIRED Credit Cards to force through payments by getting previous details of the card from a MAJOR CREDIT CARD operator.

They claim this is permitted under a ‘Continuous Payment Authority’. (They make no apology for doing so…)

It ISN’T.

Ever since I’ve been in Retail & Finance (and banking) some flourtiy years…err, Hmmm! Anything done with Credit Cards via normal retail and now online retail is and has been covered by the Consumer Credit Act. That clearly states that such any and all transactions can only be done using a VALID…. I’ll repeat… *VALID* card.

It is drilled into merchants up and down the land and Banks and other card issuing Institutions.

Thus when this rouse was explained to my bank they initially baulked and shuddered in disbelief. Subsequently after speaking again to them they admitted to having a system in place where they will ‘flag up’ ANY ‘Continuous Payment Authority’ irrespective if notified by customers.

Do I still want to call it ‘ILLEGAL’…

Well what do you call using  EXPIRED credit card details? I called it ‘Lazarus’! Literally raising the dead. So you tell me, using an INVALID Credit Card is correctly BANNED by the Act.

It is FRAUD should you contravene the Consumer Credit Act. Any card transaction not covered by the Act is BANNED (and to be sure, by implied terms using an INVALID card is BANNED).

I suspect the real reason I couldn’t speak to the Credit Card company concerned is the mere use of the word ‘illegal’. Hope they did shudder. But then again the whole of using Continuous Payment Authority as a means to make a card transaction is still contentious despite being refined in 2009. A sore point.

However, here we are. You must use a valid card at all times, they can only accept a valid card at all times. I do not see it any other way. There is no excuse not to.

My bank/card issuer is to be applauded if they can stop EXPIRED cards from being used within their system. Right answer deserves a mention for good service. Well done Tesco Bank.

Now to stop the Credit Card company. No More Excuses. No more Pandora’s box.

#CPA’s ..this time on an EXPIRED card…!! ‘Continuous Payment Authority’ ?!

From No More Excuses

Something is so very wrong

Back in 2009 the wheeze of ‘recurring payments’ or the Continuous Payment Authority was dealt a hefty blow. The changes meant that the customer could at last instruct for such payments to cease, where previously it was at the discretion of the merchant once you had committed to a pernicious cycle.

It marked a triumph for common sense but how it got passed the regulators first time completely defeated me. So many people got stitched up by this jolly jape of seemingly never-ending payments off the card of your choice. A great deal though for the retailer and particularly if they happened to be overseas, and one of the main reasons for the rule change.

However, this new safeguard still had perils and many will recall the guidance of the day and to date, steer clear of this product or proceed under caution. Just be fully aware, as ever and always.

The tale of warning should have been more evident to me than others you would think, but even I got stung before these new rules came into force. I actually had to declare my card lost and therefore void to effect a closure to payments. That in itself started a blaze of correspondence in which the retailer never answered emails asking for a repayment, and just plain ignored to answer anything except for trying every sales trick in the book to get me to re-sign, all for a blasted sale. Bloody pay TV.

The Bank declined to take the matter further and voiding the card was a simpler option for them at that time. Who said us guys have it easy.  I’d really love to spend an inordinate amount of time in explaining who this malevolent company was. Their shoddy product and all else.

So, are we talking sales?

Yes basically, at least, if I said that there was no sale could this happen? The answer also is yes! For we have moved on to new territory. We now have a different company in a credit card transaction via a regulated Bank and a regulated Credit Card company both by and in the UK. Whatever happens the end result still requires the transaction to be sanctioned in the UK, and even then similar rules apply in other countries. Now I am not talking Pay-Day Loans, so how can this happen;

* An expired credit card was permitted to be used in a sales transaction

* The card details were deleted from the retailer’s site thus previously held and invalid information was used

* No up-to-date card details were entered onto any connected site of the retailer or security code details

* The retailer confirmed the transaction by separate email and verbally

* The retailer advised/admitted that irrespective of such they had a Continuous Payment Authority in effect

Firstly I ask myself is any part of this illegal. My answer, unsurprisingly is YES, in every part, allegedly…!! [required]

For you cannot make or complete a sale, any sale online without the complete details of a ‘CURRENT’ credit card – any card – and it requires the input by the merchant of a three figure security code to secure validation from the issuing bank or institution, where there is or is not a pin or password input from the card holder. Try it without and see. If you’re successful you’ve committed a fraud. More likely is that you’re using an invalid card. Or worse…! [hint]

Try also to enter no card details in the normal manner, and you would have to do so manually within permitted limits from the issuing credit card company and the operating card franchise. This is normally a nominal figure per transaction say £100 requiring no further authorisation. In other words a manual transaction.  This would require therefore deliberately retaining or giving previous details of invalid and expired cards so to do. And you’d have to be the merchant concerned.

Now in all this, there is the part of the sale itself and it is somewhat tinged with irony. The product is a household name particularly well known in the field of computer security. You no doubt are using it now. You too have had no doubt received emails urging – sorry – telling you to update your details and blatantly using overtly manipulative techniques to get you to do so, perhaps upon renewal date or just before. Emotional blackmail really and it mainly works.

The Credit Card is separate from my Bank and deliberately so for different reasons. This you might say is a good reason. But not if this can occur, at least it isolates it to highlight that it does and can occur.

Obviously it befalls to one of the major card providers as license holders. So between the three of them you have it.

Contacting them, is a different matter. The card provider couldn’t put anyone up to comment nor myself in direct contact with their fraud department. My Credit Card issuer wanted to treat the matter as a refund and couldn’t see what I was getting at.

Have a giggle.. Seriously!

To compound this and getting the last laugh is the retailer. When contacted they of course denied everything, blatantly stating they had this Continuous Payment Authority anyway. Until that is I pointed out they still needed a valid card. I also pointed I didn’t need them as I was getting their own product from elsewhere – which is true, from my new phone and broadband provider AND CHEAPER.

Silence…! Then an eruption of well that’s Ok then I’ll organise a refund. Gone was the BS and you do as we say attitude, but insodoing compounded their guilt in the matter. Please note this carefully, only when satisfied they still had a sale, then and only then was even the mention of refund offered. That’s the proof that indeed it was a motivated action – one of regularity one of intent – solely for gain and using less than legal methods so to do.

If I tell you that they didn’t ask me for any new card details, therefore I am getting my refund, using the self same details illegally garnered in the first place. You seriously just can not make this up.

Worse…

This goes on day in day out. It squeezes through as these are annual payments and in the main punters find out too late to do anything. The actions of one are compounded by two others but equally complicit for it happening as everybody gains financially except the card holder who is paying.

Loophole or mass fraud? In my opinion I’ve seen Pandora’s Box open. May the OFT take particular delight in throwing the book at them all. Just how many thousands have unwittingly got caught by this could be staggering. Allegedly of course but I have a habit of finding undesirable things, unfortunately, and experience has an edge.

Not only are the OFT being made aware of this but every other regulatory body under the sun. And of course it’s here for all and sundry to read. Initially all I can warn people of is not to enter into any Continuous Payment Authority whatsoever, unless of course you know you have to. I cant say it stronger than that.