Electricity cut-offs

I was not going to do any more items in the immediate future, but something has happened to cause me to put finger to keyboard again. Last night, I topped-up my electricity “smart” meter via an online top-up. This appeared to have gone through O. K.. However, at about 10.00 a.m. this morning my electricity suddenly went off. I assumed that this must have been a power cut or some similar occurrence. I checked with another person in the same building and was told that their electricity was on. Therefore, this was not a fault that was affecting everybody, just me. I rang the electricity supply company (not the company to whom I pay my electricity charges), who gave me a way to restore my power. However, had it been left to my electricity supplier, I would still be without power. There are ways in which stranded payments, such as what mine had apparently become, may be forced through the system, but, in the absence of the customer doing what is required in this regard, it should not be left to the system to ignore such technological hiccups, and assume that no such payment has been made. I should not have been cut off for 4 reasons. As I explained in my previous item, I have been provided with a new “block”, whatever that means, by WordPress, and this now appears to be the default for my layout, which will not allow me to hit the return key, to start another paragraph, without giving me an error, and refusing to enter anything that I write after hitting the return key. So this, against my aesthetic and grammatical sensibilities, is again, going to be 1 long paragraph. The 1st reason that I should not have been cut off is that I had actually paid! If the payment had not gone through for any reason beyond my control, then it is surely unfair for me to be held liable for this. Secondly, I am supposed to have an automatic £15.00 emergency credit, to cover such an eventuality. Thirdly, I also have what is called a “friendly” credit, which, I believe, gives me an extra £15.00 of credit. Fourthly, I am on my supplier’s “vulnerable” list, which should mean that I should not be cut off at all, under any circumstances, without them contacting me (they have all my contact details). None of these things prevented me from being cut off. You may well wonder 2 things; why had I not contacted my supplier to complain, and why I have not named and shamed them in this article. Firstly, let me explain that I had problems with making an online payment to this very same electricity supplier the last time that I tried to top up, resulting in my having to make 2 formal complaints to their customer relations department, which made me think that there would be precious little point in going through the same unrewarding procedures on this occasion, especially as I had been able to restore my supply, without recourse to them. Having made 2 complaints, for them to be followed by something far worse than what led to the original complaints leads me to believe that I would have been simply wasting my time in trying to obtain some compensation, particularly as my fridge/freezer was off for over 3 hours. Secondly, I have not named and shamed my supplier, not through any fear of the libel laws, because what I am writing is the truth, to the best of my knowledge and belief, but because I believe that they may not be the only companies who follow similar processes, and that it would be invidious to single them out if they are not the only culprits. If there are electricity supply companies out there (in the U. K.) who do not have such policies, I would be pleased to hear from them. In these days of automation, surely it should not be beyond the ability of a major supplier of electricity to ensure that their automatic system checks to ascertain whether or not a customer has, in fact, paid for their supply (in advance, I might add) before cutting them off without so much as a warning, even in circumstances in which the payment has not, for whatever reason, registered on the customer’s account.  In pre-automated days, it would be necessary to have received 1 or 2 reminders, plus a final written warning of impending cutting-off, before the decision to terminate the supply was taken. Even then, it would have taken a few days, 24 hours at least, before the supply would have been finally terminated. Nowadays, when we are all encouraged to do everything online, and I plead guilty to having fallen for this line more times than I care to remember, it is vital that vulnerable people who have paid their bill should not be cut off by an automatic and inhumane system, that obviously does not have the required checks and balances that it should. Is this yet another example of the “new normal”, which may be new, but is certainly far from normal?

Sky scam?

I was telephoned today at between 11.55 a.m. and noon, by “Sean” from Sky, who advised me that there had been a 99p error on my Sky account, and my Direct Debit. I asked him who he wanted to talk to and he immediately rang off. If he had really been from Sky, he would have known my name, even though I answered the telephone with my name, but he obviously was not paying attention. I should say at this point that I am not a Sky subscriber, and therefore do not have a Sky account to have an error on, nor a Direct Debit. If it had truly been Sky, and they had rung the wrong number, they would surely have apologised, not just immediately terminated the call. This is reminiscent of the Amazon Prime scam that I wrote about some weeks ago. It may be that this is also for the same purpose, to collect data on my bank account, “so that we can make the necessary adjustment”. I recognize that Sky would have had my details, if I were a customer, and would hardly have started talking about errors on my account, without having 1st checked who they were talking to, as anybody could have answered the telephone. The new edit block does not allow me to add a new paragraph, via the return key, and simply returns an error, without saving my material. If this is how it is going to work, I might as well go back to the previous version! So, with apologies for this being in 1 long paragraph, I put this latest experience out there, in the hope, once again, that it might prevent somebody else from possibly falling victim to this particular scam. I did not intend to do any more items on scams, but it seems that they are even more prevalent at the moment, no doubt due to the present situation worldwide. I hope that neither I, nor anybody else reading this, falls victim to any more of this sort of thing again, but, I accept that this is unlikely to be the case!

Amazon Prime scam

I was not expecting to be coming back and writing anything further, but something happened today that I felt that I should make available to the wider world, although it is, of course, possible that this is known about already, but it does not do any harm to have these sort of things publicized as widely as possible.

Before I put anything down about that, though, I will just express my disappointment that my last (and I thought greatest, post!) has, in several months, achieved just 1 view; and no, it was not me! This post took me nearly a year of research and administration (copying, scanning, etc.), and 5 years of negotiation with H. M. R. C., to result in an unsuccessful finish. Whilst I accept, of course, that hard work and time spent does not guarantee a large readership, I would have thought that, despite being rather long, technical, and of little interest to the average reader, it might have garnered more than a single view!

Now, on to today’s events. At 12.50 p.m., my telephone rang; this is not a good time to get a pleasant response (dinner-time!), as anybody who knows me will be able to vouch for. The entity on the other end, a robot voice, informed me that as my Amazon Prime account was coming to an end, my renewal was due, and that my bank account would be charged £79.99 for that privilege. All well and good, apart from the fact that I do not have an Amazon Prime, or any other sort of Amazon account! In fact, I have never bought anything off Amazon in my life!!

What makes me think that this is a scam are a couple of points:-

  1.  If I had an account with Amazon Prime, would they not already have details of my contact information, including my telephone number? I say this because these robot voice messages are usually pre-recorded, and derive from a random number generator, used to target victims indiscriminately.
  2. It is possible that Amazon do use such a system, and that my number had come up instead of who they had wanted to call; however, my number is ex-directory, and is not available to anybody except those to whom I have given it. I believe that the scam would work something like this:- First of all, I should say that the telephone number that the call originated from (from 1471) is (021) 8731 5457. I know, from my Directory Enquiries experience, that this is a Birmingham (not Alabama!, I am in the U. K.) number. Once contacted, I expect that I would be asked for my bank details, “to make sure that we are charging the right account!”, or something similar. I have, as yet, not been able to contact this number, as it has always been engaged, but I will keep trying. If I get through, I will publish the exact details of what happens when I have them. In the meantime, I will try to contact anybody that I know, who has an Amazon Prime account, to get some input from them, as to how renewals are handled by Amazon. I spoke earlier this evening to somebody whom I have known for over 15 years; he has an Amazon Prime account, and told me that Amazon simply roll over the renewal by deducting the renewal payment from the card originally used . There is no telephone call or other contact. I have still not been able to get anything other than an engaged tone from the number in Birmingham; I shall keep trying, but I will not delay publishing this in case there are people “out there” who may not be aware of these scams. The scams are very prevalent at the moment, but this was a new 1 for me. If I ever get through to the number, I will update this post. I have now tried to get through to the telephone number many times, including at11.00 p.m., yesterday evening…still engaged! I think that this number has been blocked so as to not interfere with the scamming conversations. When I received the telephone call, there were 2 options; I could press 1 to cancel my renewal, or I could press 2, for all other enquiries. As I did not have anything to cancel, I pressed 2. That was my mistake, but also saved me from the scam. However, it also prevented me from finding out more about what was going on and how the scam was going to be worked, so I regret that decision, in a way. That looks like the end of things at the moment, so I hope that this has been useful for anybody who was unaware of this, as I was, and helps prevent anybody from falling victim to this particular 1.

The big one!

Apologies to all those of you who have been waiting patiently for me to finally get this article sorted out. I was hoping to get this done some 5 months ago, but life, in the form of lots of work, sort of got in the way. I will say right away that this is going to be a long read. For those of you who want an even longer read, I give below the upload reference for my complete file of correspondence, some 110 pages, stretching over 5 years. The reference is http://www.uploadmb.com/dw.php?id=1572026139.

Before I start, perhaps I should give you a little background about myself. I am a semi-retired accountant. By this, I mean that I am past the age of retiring, but I am still working because my clients won’t let me go! My reason for posting this article is to draw attention to a set of circumstances that led to my being deprived of an Income Tax repayment of over £1,000.00. If there is anybody reading this who can give any help as to how I can take this forward, this would be greatly appreciated. Also, if there is anybody who has been in a similar situation, whether as agent, client, etc., your views on this situation would also be most welcome.

Having said the above, as you may have gathered, I am still extremely busy, and I cannot guarantee to respond instantly (i.e., within 5 months!), but I will look at any and all replies, eventually!

To start at the beginning, I submitted an Income Tax return for a client of mine, in the usual way. After I had not heard anything for a year, I decided to remind            H. M. R. C., and find out what was going on. Before I go any further, I do not want to receive a lot of comments along the lines of “Why did you wait so long before reminding?”, “It’s your own fault for letting things get so far behind”, “What else did you expect, if you cannot be bothered to be more pro-active”, etc. These will only irritate me, will not get to the root of my problem, nor throw any further light on the situation for the benefit of other people, whom this article is designed to help.

You may wonder why my client had not queried why I had not received his repayment; he was not bothered due to circumstances of which I was unaware at the time. Had he chased me, I would obviously have responded by chasing H. M. R. C. However, I had more than enough work to do at the time, without chasing H. M. R. C. on behalf of somebody who appeared to have been content to let things ride, as I had. I have always been reluctant to chase H. M. R. C., as from my previous experience, I have found that there was an attitude of “If somebody is chasing for something, put it at the bottom of the pile”. I therefore did not want to exacerbate the situation, as there may well have been a good reason for the delay. Chasing can therefore be counter-productive.

To get into the detail, then, I wrote the reminder on 3/8/15, after I had submitted my client’s tax return on 2/8/14. There appeared to have been no problem with the submission of the return, and I had not received any error message telling me that the return had not been received. I should state that the tax return had been submitted online.

I then had to send a further reminder on 2/9/15, as I had received no reply or even an acknowledgement. I then received, on 2/10/15, a reply, stating that as I was no longer the agent for my client, H. M. R. C. were unable to discuss his tax affairs with me. I was well aware of this fact, and had referred to it in my 1st reminder. My client had gone to work on the mainland (I live and work on the Isle of Wight), and I was quite happy for him to have found an accountant local to wherever he was working. It made sense for him, and I had no objection to his doing that.

I replied to H. M. R. C., on 18/10/15, pointing out that I was well aware of the change of agent, but that the year 2013/14 (the year in question) should have been sorted out before my client had changed agents. Further, I was writing in the capacity of my client’s nominee, not as his agent.

I received a reply to my letter, dated 2/11/15, stating that H. M. R. C. had received information to suggest that the client’s address had changed, and that no new address had been provided on the tax return. According to H. M. R. C., this prevented the issue of a repayment, and they were not aware of the client’s new address until the appointment of the new agent.

As a general point, this requirement for there to be a current client’s address, in order for a repayment to be issued was news to me. I had always previously understood that 1 of the reasons for having an agent, if not the reason, in the case of a sub-contractor, such as my client, was that the agent provides a certain point of contact, when the client may well be working around the country, going from job to job, and not staying in 1 place long enough for H. M. R. C. to catch up with them.

However, when the 2013/14 tax return was sent in, the address given was the current address at that time, and any change of address must have happened after the return had been received by H. M. R. C. In addition to the address provided,       H. M. R. C. had my address, my client’s previous address, at which he was still able to pick up letters, etc., his parents’ address, which would also have been another stable point of contact, and another department ( the National Insurance and Employer Office) had an address (of which they were advised on 9/5/13) which was valid at the time. Nevertheless, none of these addresses seems to have been enough to persuade H. M. R. C. to part with the money.

I also questioned why, in my reply of 9/11/15, when this information was so obviously vital to the repayment being processed, did H. M. R. C. not write to me to ask me for a later address. At that time, I was still in contact with my client by telephone, and could have obtained this easily, had H. M. R. C. bothered to ask.

H. M. R. C.’s response of 18/11/15, was to ignore all this evidence, and to revert to stating that as I was no longer the current agent, they were not allowed to even reply to my letter! You see where this is going, but be prepared for a good many twists and turns.

I then replied, on 3/12/15, posted on 7/12/15, by asking a hypothetical question: If an agent submitted a tax return for 2013/14 for a client on 2/8/14, showing a repayment due, and that repayment was to be sent via the agent, as nominated by the client, and if the agent changed and the new agent submitted a return for 2014/15, also showing a repayment due, under what circumstances would the repayment for the earlier year not be made to the former agent?

This question was completely ignored, despite a reminder on 4/1/16, until I received a reply, also dated 4/1/16, which obviously had crossed in the post with mine. This stated “Please accept my apologies for the failure in issuing the 2013/14 repayment to yourself when it was clear that the return held all the information necessary. I am currently in the process of recovering the tax overpaid so that it can be re-issued to yourself. As soon as I am able, I will contact you to let you know when the repayment has been dealt with.”

At last, I thought, I have got an answer that is approximately what I thought that it should be! I had previously confirmed that this was the situation, by telephone, with another member of H. M. R. C.’s staff, but it was good to get this written confirmation of the situation.

I had been forced to stop writing this article in October, as WordPress was giving me error messages stating that they were unable to save my additions. This has now been cleared, due to Microsoft forcing a shut down and restart of my computer, due to updates, so I am back here again, and on course, if not on schedule!

I had been advised verbally, by the same member of staff, that this was a difficult situation, and that I should not remind H. M. R. C. However, after a further year had passed, on 13/2/17, I did write again, asking how much longer this was likely to take. This was completely ignored, and I wrote again, on 20/3/17, threatening that I would take the matter to my local M. P., if things were not resolved soon.

This did have the effect of producing a response, but it was not the 1 that I had expected, let alone wanted! I received a standard formula letter, dated 30/3/17, stating that H. M. R. C. have no legal obligation to repay any tax overpaid to anyone other than the taxpayer, and claiming that as they had in fact done this, they would not be taking any further action. This letter was unsigned, and, in my opinion therefore, not legally valid.

If the repayment had, in fact, been legally made to the taxpayer/client, then there would be no question of recovering it to make payment correctly to the agent. I believe that the repayment was made incorrectly to the wrong agent, and not in accordance with my client’s wishes. I appreciated that this was an embarrassing position  for H. M. R. C. to be in, and this is why I complied with the staff member’s request not to chase, in the circumstances.

I put the point that I did not think it equitable that I should have to bear the cost of H. M. R. C.’s incompetence, both in failing to obtain restitution from the agent, and in failing to send the repayment in accordance with the client’s mandate. I stated that I believed that the situation fell into the realm of “official error”, and that the cost should be written off by H. M. R. C. under that heading. I formally requested that the repayment be made, in full, as originally intended, together with the appropriate amount of repayment supplement, due to the delay in dealing with the matter.

I received a reply to my letter on 28/4/17, stating that the information that I was given in my telephone conversations with the aforementioned member of staff was incorrect, and that “Our obligation is to ensure that where possible we repay any tax due to the customer in accordance with their request. As we have done so in this case no further action is required.” (My bold.). Clearly, they have not repaid in accordance with my client’s request, as this was to send the repayment to myself.

I replied on 5/5/17, requesting to know under which regulation H. M. R. C. are entitled to change their stance from 1 of admitting liability, which was plain to see, to stating that there is no liability to make repayment in accordance with the taxpayer’s clear instructions, as long as the repayment is made to the taxpayer, eventually. Needless to say, this point has been also completely ignored. I also added that if repayment was made via another agent, that H. M. R. C. would have no proof whatever that the taxpayer had received any repayment at all, as H. M. R. C.’s knowledge of the situation would have ceased at the point at which they made repayment to the agent. I also requested sight of the relevant instruction which states that H. M. R. C. are able to overrule a taxpayer nomination in the case of a repayment. Again, this request was completely ignored. I also hinted that I might consider submitting my complaint to The Adjudicator’s Office; more on this later.

H. M. R. C. replied on 5/6/17. They claim that the form 64-8 (the authority to appoint an agent to act) received from the new agent superseded the existing authority. Whilst this is true, this does not mean that any repayment nomination made under the previous agency is null and void. At this point H. M. R. C. drag in a new red herring; this is the question of a Deed or letter of assignment. H. M. R. C. then made the offer of the services of The Adjudicator’s Office.

I therefore telephoned The Adjudicator’s Office, and confirmed the details of our conversation in my letter of 27/7/17. In that letter, I made the point that if the nominee for the earlier year (the year that I had dealt with) had been anybody else other than the agent, would H. M. R. C. have changed the nominee? They have refused to reply or even consider this question.

I received a reply from The Adjudicator’s Office dated 1/8/17, stating that I had not completed the complaints process with H. M. R. C., and that I needed to refer my complaint back to them.

I therefore wrote to H. M. R. C. on 15/8/17, showing clearly how I had had no less than 5 reviews of my complaint, when only 2 were required by The Adjudicator’s Office, and that I could not understand their decision to refer my complaint back to H. M. R. C. I formally requested a “Final Letter” to be issued.

I received a reply from H. M. R. C. dated 11/9/17, stating that my complaint was now with The Adjudicator’s Office, which was indeed the case.Before I had received a reply from H. M. R. C., I received a letter from The Adjudicator’s Office, thanking me for my letter of 15/8/17. I do not intend to list the history of the confusion between  H. M. R. C. and The Adjudicator’s Office; suffice it to say that the matter got to being dealt with. I next received a letter from The Adjudicator’s Office, dated 23/1/18. This enclosed a copy of H. M. R. C.’s report to them, which had previously not been disclosed to me.

This was of great interest to me, as it contained information, of which I was previously unaware. Chief among this information is that on 18/3/15 H. M. R. C. received a signed form 64-8 authorizing a new agent to represent the client. On 13/4/15 a further form 64-8 was received authorizing another new agent. This is significant because H. M. R. C. had never before mentioned that there were 2 new agents involved. Whilst this may be thought to be trivial, it is absolutely critical to the timing and handling of this matter, as I shall demonstrate later. H. M. R. C. again refer in their report to the question of a deed of assignment; this, as I have already said, is a complete red herring. There are also some references to H. M. R. C.’s internal guidance, which I will also come back to later.

I received a letter from The Adjudicator’s Office dated 13/2/18, stating that I was not the individual whose tax affairs H. M. R. C. handled, and as I was not the current agent for that individual, they were unable, under the terms of their remit, to investigate the matter on my behalf. This is despite my having told them 6 months previously ( all but 2 days) of that precise position, and at that time they agreed to handle my complaint.

However, that is a minor grumble, compared to the issue here. I did, nevertheless, respond to their letter, commenting on the copy H. M. R. C. report that they had sent me. 1 question that I asked then, and that still remains unanswered satisfactorily is, “Knowing that the repayment could not be made without a valid address for the client/taxpayer, why did H. M. R. C. not write to me requesting this information in the period from 2/8/14, when I submitted my client’s S. A. T. R. until the 1st new agent was appointed on 18/3/15?” This is a period of over 7 months, in which            H. M. R. C. failed to act.

I also pointed out to The Adjudicator’s Office that the information that I had originally been given about the repayment had now been stated to have been incorrect. I queried, and still query, how such blatantly incorrect information could have got past H. M. R. C.’s normally stringent correspondence checks. I further added that if H. M. R. C. were aware, as they were, that I had been given incorrect  information, why was I not told this for over a year? Were they hoping that I would let the matter drop, knowing that their files would contain the correct information, in the event of any subsequent investigation?

I further pointed out that H. M. R. C. state that they have no legal obligation to refund tax overpaid to anybody other than the taxpayer, whereas they were quite happy to make a refund to the new agent, but not to the previous 1. Why the difference in treatment between the 2 agents? Again, this question has never been satisfactorily answered. I additionally raised the point that the 2 employees that I had correspondence with, may well have been acting correctly at the time, despite what H. M. R. C. claim, and that they were admonished subsequently, after the rules had been changed retrospectively, making what I had been told in good faith by these 2 people now wrong. Yet again, I have never had a satisfactory answer to this assertion.

As a general point, I mention it here, as I mentioned it in my reply to The Adjudicator’s Office, in connection with H. M. R. C.’s report, a form 64-8 only takes effect from the date that it is signed; it does not retrospectively negate the authority previously given, nor nominations made under that authority, relating to the time that the previous authority was in force.

H. M. R. C. state that they received a form 64-8 in respect of the 1st new agent, showing the client’s new address (that they needed to make the repayment) on 18/3/15. The 1st new agent was not nominated to receive any repayment for 2014/15, as this year had not yet finished. From the 3rd web reference provided (in                 H. M. R. C.’s report to The Adjudicator’s Office), I read the following:- “Electronically filed return, new taxpayer address 62. When taxpayer’s address has been updated on record Use function ISSUE REPAYMENT FROM OVERDUE BALANCE to issue repayment as requested.” (My bold.). Clearly, this refers to the original request, as the 1st new agent did not receive any repayment. Therefore, H. M. R. C. should have issued the repayment within 2 weeks (as they claim that they nearly always do), especially as this was a priority repayment case, prior to the appointment of the 2nd new agent. This is the crux of the case. As there was nearly 4 weeks between             H. M. R. C. receiving notification of my client’s new address and the appointment of the 2nd new agent, there was obviously adequate time to make the repayment as originally mandated. Had this been done this case would never have arisen.

There were 15 points that I raised in my comments on H. M. R. C.’s report. I have not paraphrased all of them here, as they related to procedural and incidental matters; however, the full letter to The Adjudicator’s Office forms part of the whole correspondence file uploaded at the reference given above and below.

I also commented on 1 item that was specifically  not mentioned in H. M. R. C.’s report, namely, that I had asked on more than 1 occasion, what would the situation have been if, instead of the previous agent, the nominee had been a friend, relative, or other 3rd party. To this question, H. M. R. C. have refused point blank to answer. If they had, it would have dispelled doubt (or otherwise) that H. M. R. C. were taking the line that they were, specifically because I was the previous agent.

I received a response to my comments from The Adjudicator herself, in her letter of 9/3/18. In it, she states “When a customer completes the repayment nomination section on a Return they authorize H. M. R. C. to make any repayment…” In my reply to her of 19/3/18, I said that I feel that we have different interpretations of the wording here. The Adjudicator, and H. M. R. C., appear to be interpreting “any” as “any and every” . I interpret “any” as “if there is any” (relating to the year of the return on which the nomination is made.). 1, of many, reasons for putting this article up on the internet, is to assess other people’s interpretations of this particular wording of the repayment nomination section of the return. Any arguments for, or against, my interpretation will be respectfully received, and are welcome. As I stated in my reply to The Adjudicator, the amount that I consider that I am owed, although considerable for me, pales into insignificance in comparison with the costs of a judicial review to test which interpretation would be held to be correct in court. Again, this is another reason for me to float these ideas in the wider world for people to express their opinions on the matter.

Following The Adjudicator’s rejection of my complaint as being outside her remit, I had no alternative but to submit my complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, to whom I shall refer as the Ombudsman in future, to save ink.

Now, this is where it gets really interesting. Nothing changes in the facts of my complaint, and what I am going on to write about concerns the manner in which my case was dealt with by the Ombudsman. I sent them my complaint form via my local M. P., and they acknowledged this on 9/4/18. In this acknowledgement, they stated that it was unclear whether or not I had received a final response from The Adjudicator’s Office. I replied, indicating that I would not have written to the Ombudsman had I not received their contact details via the Adjudicator’s Office! They would hardly have given them to me if the matter was still working with them. This was not a good start. Unfortunately, things go downhill from now on.

From that date on, until the final rejection of my complaint, on 18/7/18, i.e., over 3 months, there was not a single thing in writing, so I had nothing tangible to counteract, until I was presented with a fait accompli, in the form of their final decision.

However, there were a number of interactions on the telephone, of which 2 are noteworthy. Firstly, when I was contacted by my caseworker to let me know he was taking up the case,  immediately, among his very 1st words to me were, “Of course, you know that complaints like yours do not usually get very far”! This hardly smacks of an independent, objective, assessment of the matter. It may have been an excess of honesty (it turned out that he was right), but it does not give anybody the impression that the matter will be approached with anything but an overriding biased attitude, and that against the complainant. Later, another telephone message was left stating that if I did not contact the Ombudsman within 24 hours, my complaint would be dismissed, their file would be closed, and they would find against me.  I duly contacted the Ombudsman, as a result of this threat, within the appropriate timescale, only to be told that my complaint had been dismissed, that their file would be closed, and that their decision would be against me…! Not much point in responding there, then!

Regarding the later telephone message, it stated that as a result of additional information received, it was unclear how, or even if, my complaint should proceed. Considering that this information was so significant as to be the reason that my case was dropped (within 24 hours) like the proverbial hot potato, it was ridiculous that I was never made privy/party to this information. It was therefore necessary that I contact the Ombudsman, as above. However, after receiving this message, I was repeatedly asked “You once worked for H. M. R. C., didn’t you?” Although I replied in the affirmative, I was never given a reason as to the relevance of this fact to my case. I was told that I must have worked for H. M. R. C., as how else would I have known about the online guidance manuals, despite the fact that all accountants know that this information is available online, and that the specific references that I referred to in my correspondence were the very ones that were provided by H. M. R. C. in their report to The Adjudicator’s Office, of which I had had a copy, and of that fact the Ombudsman was well aware! As this question was asked repeatedly, it was obviously significant in their consideration of their decision. However, this question was never referred to in their decision notice. I asked the Ombudsman to state, unequivocally, what the relevance of any previous employment I may have once had with H. M. R. C., was to my complaint.  Needless to say, again, this was never addressed.

For the record, had I remained with H. M. R. C., I would have retired in 2006. In fact, I left their employment over 40 years ago. I thought that it was only the K. G. B. that kept files on people for over 4 decades.

Further, I find it very disturbing that nothing at all was in writing, either in e-mails or paper correspondence, meaning that it was just a case of my word against the Ombudsman’s, until their final decision had already been made.

In the Ombudsman’s letter of 21/5/18, agreeing to take up my case they state “We investigate complaints where we can unless there is a good reason not to”. At no time has any reason, good or otherwise, been given for not pursuing my complaint, except the bland statement “We can find no evidence of maladministration”, despite having been given the full details of the correspondence which has been summarised above.

I maintain that there is ample evidence of maladministration, and that this has been totally disregarded by the Ombudsman, in pursuance of the destination that these sort of complaints rarely go anywhere. A self-fulfilling prophecy! I was further advised that there was no right of appeal against the Ombudsman’s decision, although this has turned out not to be true. I pointed out that the Information Commissioner has a right for complainants to have a different person look at the case, in the situation where a complainant is not happy with their decision. Reluctantly, I feel, the Ombudsman agreed to this request, only for the same bland reply to come back; “We can find no evidence of maladministration”.

As an example of this attitude, it was stated that “HMRC process a great deal of information and we would not expect them to chase missing information on a form or inadequate information.” This was given in response to the “fact” that the tax return submitted did not have a valid address on it. In fact, the address was neither missing nor inadequate. After submission of the return, the address changed; I am supposed to know this! H. M. R. C. are not obliged to tell me this information, despite the fact that a repayment is dependant upon it, and all the Ombudsman can say is that H. M. R. C. process a great deal of information… as above. As I pointed out in no uncertain terms, this is what they get paid for!! H. M. R. C. are supposed to check, alter and remedy any incorrect information that they find. So failure to ask for relevant information where a repayment is at stake is not maladministration! I could go on, as I did in my 9-page reply, which I shall not elaborate on here. Suffice it to say that I took every 1 of the Ombudsman’s principles and clearly demonstrated how they had singularly failed to fulfil them in dealing with my situation. Still the same old reply came back…”We can find no evidence…”

Clearly, the Ombudsman has a total lack of empathy for agents and doubtless feels that we should regard situations such as the 1 I found myself in, as going with the territory. Have any other accountants taken a similar matter to the Ombudsman, and if so, with what result? I feel that this is a case of “Here’s another accountant complaining about not getting his repayment.” “O. K., treat it like all the others.”

Following the rejection of my complaint by the Ombudsman, I asked for a different caseworker to look at my case, and was referred by the original caseworker to the Review and Feedback team. I was told that this was a rare occurrence , but nevertheless that there was going to be a minimum of 3 months’ delay, followed by 42 days, during which my request for a review would be considered. Strange, considering that this was supposed to be a rare occurrence! I was contacted by the Review and Feedback Team and told that they would need my ex-client’s consent for them to review my case.  I replied, asking why this should be, as the original matter was submitted to them with no requirement for consent. It was finally accepted, after a climb-down, grudgingly, that, as the original complaint had been accepted without the need for my ex-client’s consent, the review would be dealt with likewise.

Having waited the 3 months, plus 42 days, I had still not heard from the Review and Feedback Team, so I sent them a gentle reminder on 5/2/19. I was told that my request for a review form had not been received! Surprise, surprise!! I then sent off a further form, with the request that I would not have to wait a further 3 months and 42 days for a reply. I had originally sent my request for a review on 25/9/18. I had been asked to send it online, but the online form appeared to be read-only, so I had to download it, print it out and fill it in by hand. Then I send it off and they go and lose it!

When I received a response to my gently chasing letter of 5/2/19, I then get threatened with strict time restrictions around asking for a review, and asked to send proof that I had sent the form. Luckily, I had had the presence of mind to have kept a copy of the original form that I had filled in, and this was the copy that I sent again. I also took the precaution to send the form “Signed for”, so that there would be no wriggling out of the fact of the arrival of the form this time.

Of course the outcome of the review was, “We can find no evidence of maladministration.”. That’s it; I can find nowhere else to go ,save the judicial review, which, as already explained is completely outside my financial ability. I therefore throw the whole matter open to the general public to see what, if any, comments arrive. If nothing else, writing this has been cathartic, but it would be nice to get some sort of finality and resolution in line with my idea of how things should work (perhaps in an ideal world), through the input of anybody else who has been in the same situation, in whatever capacity, especially if they have any ideas about how I could take the matter forward. In the end, I might just have to settle for being told, as with Brexit, “You lost, just get over it!!!”

Finally, as promised, the upload reference to save your scrolling arms from going all the way back up to the top is:- http://www.uploadmb.com/dw.php?id=1572026139

Thank-you.

2 of 3.

This is my 2nd item of the 3 that I intend to do at the moment. Firstly though, I will just give a brief update on my 1st. I wrote to the Czech Tourist Authority, as I said I would, on 26/8/19. As before, I wrote that I had not received a reply and, sure enough, 1 came in a few days later! As it is now 1 month, all but 1 day, (at the time of drafting this), I will stick my neck out once more and say that I have not (yet) received a reply. Neither have I received a reply from Prague airport, and I am no longer holding my breath! Update on 30/9/19:- Still no reply!

Now to my 2nd rant. This is in connection with the renewal of my holiday insurance with the Post Office. I must say at the outset that this matter has now been settled amicably and satisfactorily, but I am setting it out below as I promised that I would, and also because I hope that it will serve as an object lesson in how not to go about renewing your holiday insurance (or any other kind, probably).

First of all, I should state that it appears that I was on the automatic renewal system. Personally, I do not like such systems, as they can, and are, used by many unscrupulous businesses to roll-over customers who are simply forgetful, or just plain negligent, into paying for a new year’s services, which they do not want.

In the last week of June, I was looking at renewing my holiday insurance; I had been shopping around, as the renewal quote that I had received from the Post Office seemed rather high, an increase of about £36.00, when all that had changed was that I had got a year older. I found an alternative company who could provide nearly exactly the same cover (exactly the same cover, sums assured, etc., with the exception of specific cover for loss of passport and personal cash, which were no doubt covered under 1 of the other sections, such as loss, or theft). This cover was available for £3.10 more than the Post Office’s premium for the previous year, which I thought was reasonable, and I would have accepted, had it been the Post Office’s own offer.

I was aware that I was on automatic renewal, and, as a result of finding a better deal elsewhere, I rang the Post Office’s general customer services number, provided on my renewal information. There was a slight complication, as my insurance actually expired when I was on holiday. It was therefore essential that I maintained my cover up to the last day, and that my new cover would proceed seamlessly thereafter. I was informed that if I did not want to renew, then my cover would cease immediately! I said that I could not have that, and the person that I was speaking to changed their attitude and said that I now could do this! I left the matter there, and went away on holiday. This was to Prague (see post 1 of 3 earlier).

All was well, I thought, until 19/7/19, when I received my credit card statement in the post, showing that the Post Office had stolen over £160.00 from my credit card, against my precise and clear instructions. Why? On 22/7/19, I contacted the Post Office’s customer services department, again, and explained the situation, and asked what was going on. The lady that I spoke to kindly advised me there had been a mistake, and that the money would be credited back to my credit card within 5 days. I had no way of checking whether or not this had been done, until I got my next statement. However, I accepted her word for it, and in view that there appeared to have been a genuine error, I would not be asking for compensation on this occasion.

Within moments of putting down the telephone from her, I received an e-mail stating that as I had cancelled, they now were going to keep my money and that no refund was due! This, as I said in my letter of 1/8/19, was taking the piss. (Censored in the original letter.).

I endeavoured to find a way to complain, but after trying umpteen e-mail addresses, none of which replied to me (some of which came back as undeliverable, including 2 relating to 2 Chief Executive Officers), I was left with the original telephone number that I had contacted in the 1st place!

Now things get really sneaky. On 26/7/19, I received in the post, a full pack of renewal documents, dated 25/6/19. The impression was being clearly given that I had renewed my policy, before I had even contacted the Post Office in the 1st place!

I did not, and still do not,  believe that my policy documents had been in the post for a whole month, my conclusion being that they had been fraudulently backdated, in an attempt to make it look as though I had willingly renewed, when exactly the opposite had happened!

Secondly, if I had have renewed, it would have been a bit pointless sending me my travel insurance documents when I had been away from 1/7 – 8/7, and had been back 3 weeks when they had arrived!

I believe that these documents were, in fact, only issued following my telephone call, and after I had been advised that I would get my money back, in an attempt to make out that I had renewed to cover myself for my holiday and then cancelled when I got back.

Finally, the following day, I received another letter, telling me that as I had cancelled, there was no refund due!

I take exception to the fact that the money was stolen from my credit card 1 week before the renewal was even due, when the Post Office could not have known at that time whether or not I was even going to renew at all!

When I originally rang to ask not to be rolled-over, and I was told that this would mean immediate cancellation of my cover, then, when I naturally objected, I was told that this was not was meant, had I agreed to the cancellation, this would have left me with no cover for the 1st 2 days of my holiday.

At the time, I believed that I was being lied to repeatedly, but it may well have been the case of multiple people being involved in trying to sort my case out, without any of them being aware of what the others were doing!

I do not have copies of any e-mails that I have sent and (eventually) received in this matter, as at the same time that I was trying to sort this matter out, my Post Office e-mail account was hacked, and subsequently blocked by the Post Office to protect it. However, I lost some e-mails as a result. The full story of this is told in the copies of the correspondence that I will be uploading along with this item, the reference number of the upload will be shown at the bottom of this piece. I am not going to go into the details here, as this was not really part of my complaint against the Post Office, but as I was writing to them about my travel insurance, I thought that I would throw this in for good measure.

I do not know whether it was my web browser or the Post Office’s e-mail server that was actually hacked, but I was unable to get to the bottom of this as my e-mail service from the Post Office is no longer supported!

As I say, all the relevant details are included in the uploaded correspondence; it did not seem worthwhile writing 2 separate letters each time, when 1 was not really a complaint anyway.

In connection with my concerns related to auto-renewal, I would prefer that this was made illegal, for the following reason: if the concept is accepted as being legal, there appear to be no safeguards as to when the auto-renewal is implemented. I will say that the Post Office is 1 of the least offenders in this regard. I have seen several, mainly American, companies on the internet, whose conditions of auto-renewal state that the renewal payment will be taken 30 days before renewal is due. I am sure that there are also British companies with the same, or similar, conditions. It would be invidious for me to name them, as I am sure that the ones that I have come across are not the only ones, by a long way. In fact 1 of my 1st blogs, if not the very 1st (see archives, I cannot remember at the time of writing) was on this particular subject, where my web hosting company rolled me over at least 4 months before my annual renewal was due!

In summary, this is why I have tried to avoid auto-renewal wherever possible. The only situation in which I have found it helpful is in the case of motor insurance, but where, perversely, my insurance broker refused to keep me covered, as by the time my payment would have arrived, (my insurance expiring on a Sunday) i.e., on the Monday, the premium would have changed, and it would not have gone down!

Finally, for this piece, a quick trailer for the final, and biggest by far, article, concerning my losing battle with H. M. R. C. over their sending a repayment to the wrong person. More to follow, but involves about 130 pages of correspondence, so it will take a little time to redact, scan, etc.

Apologies for the short delay in actually uploading this (see date of original draft), but I have had a minor incapacity, and also slight problems with my car, both of which have taken up a bit of my time that I had not allowed for.

To view the complete file, in relation to which my article was written, please go to http://www.uploadmb.com/dw.php?id=1569854728

Did I do something wrong?

I had put this piece up, on 19/8/19, and sure enough, yesterday 21/8/19, I received a reply from the Czech Tourist Authority! So it is only fair to them that I now amend my post, taking into account their letter to me.

The letter that I have received was mild and friendly in tone, and provided me with the web address of an online complaint form. In addition, the Czech Tourist Authority in London have already sent the details of my complaint on my behalf. They have further provided me with the web address of Prague Airport’s Code of Conduct and Ethics, which I look forward to reading. Finally, they have given me the telephone number, e-mail address, and postal address of the airport’s compliance department.

I did have 1 further request of the Czech Tourist Authority’s office; to provide me with the same information relating to the Czech Police. I will await their reply on that 1!

I said that I would write a piece on my holiday in Prague. So here it is: I did want to start on it a couple of days ago, but I felt it better to put a brief thank-you for my “like” first. Having decided to start today, I then find that I now have another “like”, from yesterday! So, thank-you to Nat7x. I do not know why you responded to my “Not the 1st of 3” short note, but possibly you saw my previous post, which was tagged Prague (among other things), and then came back to the blog and liked the new post. Either way, many thanks, and I shall visit your blog and leave a short (I promise!) comment.

Now, this is not going to be your typical holiday diary; I am going to concentrate on 2 particular incidents which went against the trend of an otherwise great time. I was going to wait until I had received a reply from the Czech Tourist Authority, to give them a chance to give me an explanation for what happened, when I remembered that I had written to them on 9/7/19, the day after I returned, and followed this up with a reminder on 9/8/19, so I think that they have had long enough to reply, if they are going to.

The fact that I have had to write to the Czech Tourist Authority at all is an indication of how strongly I feel about what occurred. I have never in 44 years of foreign travel had to write to any official organization of any country that I have visited except to offer words of praise.

To begin with, I arrived at Prague Airport, after a pleasantly uneventful flight, and joined the queue for the automatic passport gates. I would point out that the video demonstrating how to operate the gates actually shows the incorrect way to insert your passport; if you insert it in the way shown, the part that needs to be scanned would be actually resting against the metal of the gate’s structure, rather than the scanner. However, I tried my passport in both positions, without success. I must state, at this point, that I nearly always have trouble with my biometric passport at most gates, even on returning home after a trip.

Having failed to recognize me after a few attempts, the machine decided to redirect me, via a message in English. to a manned kiosk. At this juncture, I realized that there was no help available in the form of anybody about to assist with combatting the intransigence of the automatic gates. I was unable to return the way that I had come, as there were people in the queue behind me, and there was no way that I could have squeezed past them. I therefore ducked under the security tape to get to the appropriate kiosk. This may have been a mistake.

When I arrived at the passport control, I was greeted with an expression of anger, coupled with a look of complete and utter hatred, that I have never experienced before. I felt like a Jew standing in front of a Nazi! I am used to being given long, hard stares, by immigration officials; it is, after all, their job. Often one is subjected to prolonged questioning as to the purpose of one’s visit, etc., this being accompanied by frequent comparisons between the picture in the passport and my own face, occasionally involving a 2nd opinion with a colleague, before being admitted to the country. I am used to that; it is to be expected in a country that is rightly concerned as to who is coming into their homeland. But this was on a whole new level.

My passport was snatched from me violently, causing me to jump back in alarm. While it was being checked, I was subjected to a hate-filled glare, such as I have never before encountered. I must say that I returned the man’s gaze as equally as possible, but I soon realized that this was not going to assist my entry into the country. I therefore relaxed my mouth, but continued to hold his eyes for as long as I was able. After checking, my passport was literally thrown back at me (I do not exaggerate). Nothing was said at all during this entire process. I realized that this person had the power to give me a green or red light, and I did not wish to get other people involved in my trying to get into the country, so I simply said “Thank-you” and was let through.

He may have been having a bad day, and I am aware that most immigration officers have absolutely no sense of humour, and, therefore I do not smile at them, or try to engage them in conversation, unless I am spoken to 1st. I have never felt so intimidated in my life. My 1st impression of the people of the country was 1 of potential extreme violence; had he pulled a gun on me, I would not have been in the least surprized. I have to say that this was definitely not borne out by my many interactions with the Czech people, all of whom I found extremely helpful and friendly, except in the case of the 2nd incident, which I shall come to.

For anybody who was not a frequent traveller, or who was visiting the country for the 1st time, as I was, this incident could have been absolutely terrifying. When one’s 1st impression of a country is of extreme potential violence, this is deeply unsettling, and is not a good start! Had I been mugged immediately on leaving the airport building, I could not have been more shaken up.

I was not going to mention this, but as I am in rambling mode, I will…My pre-booked taxi was waiting for me, which was good, as my flight was somewhat delayed; the lady driver was very friendly, but must have done her taxi-driver training on a police pursuit course! We veered all over the 3-lane carriageway, causing other vehicles to pull over out of our way. I was tempted to check if there was a blue light flashing on the roof, but thought it wiser to keep my eyes on the road, just in case an emergency departure proved necessary. Things were further livened up by an insurance scammer hurling himself at the car, during a rare period of rest, to which my driver simply said “Czech man”, and carried on as though nothing had happened. At least she had turned up, unlike my taxi for the return journey, which is another story, that I shall not bother you with…

I was surprized by the driving style, as it was more reminiscent of that of the Balkans, rather than Germany, which I would have thought it would have followed. Having had this this shaky start, 2 days into my holiday, I happened to cross a road against a red pedestrian light, which I accept was foolish, and potentially dangerous, but there was no other traffic in view, and there was nothing to obstruct my attaining the other side. I then continued on my way; I could hear a commotion behind me, but I assumed that it was nothing to do with me and walked on. I then heard an “Oi”, at which point I turned round to find a policeman inches from my face, yelling and shouting his head off. When he eventually drew breath, his colleague asked me if I spoke English, to which I replied “Yes”. He gestured to his colleague and said, “He did not know that you did not speak Czech”. He then asked me if I was English, if I had been to London, and did I know what red lights meant. He then threatened me with a 100 Euro fine. I explained that I was guest in his country, that I was a tourist, on a short holiday, that I did not know that I had broken any law, that there was no traffic coming, and I apologised, but was still threatened with the fine. When I refused to pay it, I was let off with a caution.

As a result, whenever I was subsequently at a light-controlled crossing, instead of watching the traffic, I was watching the lights and to see if there were any police. Whilst waiting, I noticed dozens of people doing what I had done, without being accosted or threatened by the police. I asked the Czech Tourist Authority a genuine question, as to whether there were different kinds of police, but with no reply.

There appeared to be 3 different kinds of police: the “normal” police, traffic police, and the heavily-armed patrol officers. In view of the Czech Tourist Authority’s lack of reply, I would be interested if anybody could throw any light on the different kinds of police, and what their respective functions are. As a couple of afterthoughts, I  have been crossing the road on a green light, in Prague, and been nearly mown down by cars coming around the corner. who do not give way to pedestrians. It seems that there is 1 law for pedestrians, and 1 for motorists, as in many countries. The police officers who “spoke” to me were wearing high-visibility yellow jackets and looked like workies. Had they looked more like policemen, I might have been more careful. In a more cynical frame of mind, I did wonder whether or not they were actually workmen, trying it on, on a tourist. I pondered why they mentioned the amount of the fine in Euros, when the Czech currency is the Koruna (apologies if I have got the spelling wrong). It is the only time in my travels when I have not been pleased to have been taken for a local!

Since returning, I have been informed, both by my travel agent, and a friend, that the German police are also very strict on pedestrians breaking the law. This makes me think that I partially brought this on myself, but would have appreciated a slightly more “softly, softly” approach, as a tourist.

Finally, I loved the parts of Prague that I saw, and I found that the food and drink were of an exceptionally high standard, and very good value for money. The ordinary people there were not in the least threatening or aggressive. I ended my letter to the Czech Tourist Authority thus: It is a pity that those who are paid to protect us turn out to be the ones that we need to be most afraid of!

I will try to upload the actual letters from me, if I can work out how to do it, so that anybody interested enough to want to read my exact words can do so. If I manage this, I will put a reference following the text of this piece to take you to that particular realm of cyberspace.

To view the complete file in relation to which my article was written, please go to

http://www.uploadmb.com/dw.php?id=1566214122

Not the 1st of 3!

I was going to write the 1st of my 3 proposed articles, but having received a “like”, I thought that I would pen a public thank-you for that. From the user name, I imagine that the reference to my Prague experience was probably what prompted the response. As I said in the Trailer, this is not my usual area of subject matter that I write about, but it did fall within the complaint aspect of the blog. Hopefully, the Prague article is going to be the 1st to be done, as it will be the shortest, and those who read the Trailer in the hope of a series of travel articles will still stay for the (supposed) entertainment value, whatever the subject!

It is gratifying that the English style is appreciated! Thank-you once again.

Trailer for a few items

I have just spent the best part of half an hour, writing the 1st stuff for 5 years, and then I go and hit the wrong key and I have lost it all! Right, I will try and remember what, or roughly what, I put. I have always maintained that I would not write anything just for the sake of writing it, and if I had nothing to say, that’s exactly what I would put. Hence the 5 years’ silence. But just like buses, you wait for ages and then 3 come along at once!

The 1st, and shortest 1, will be about the holiday that I had in Prague, in July, which was excellent, but there occurred a couple of incidents, which may be of interest/warning to those who have never been, as much as to those who have visited that beautiful city many times.

The 2nd article will be more on my usual high horse of consumer problems, relating a bit of a saga with the Post Office, involving their travel insurance (in connection with the holiday to Prague) and also with Post Office HomePhone. involving lack of access to my e-mails, and leading to a change of e-mail address, to say nothing of a 5-page letter of complaint to the Post Office (somebody said that this was a bit short by my normal standards); I must be slipping. Details to be revealed involve multiple lies, alleged fraudulent handling of documents, refusal to effect a customer’s wishes, all the usual stuff of consumer complaints.

The 3rd, and perhaps not surprisingly by far the biggest 1, relates to yet another 5-year running saga with H. M. R. C. It was this 1 that was going to form the subject of my next rant, and then in the last month or so, the other 2 came along. As a hint of what lies in store re this 1, it involves a 4-figure repayment that was possibly fraudulently diverted to the wrong recipient, which has been roundly condoned (note, I said condoned, not condemned) by the Ombudsman.

That’s it for the preview; hopefully I have whetted a few interests. However, do not expect too much too soon! I am struggling with M. T. D. (Making Tax Difficult) for the uninitiated. Once I get a bit of time, I will launch the 1st, which as usual, I will try to back up with copies of my correspondence where appropriate.

Consumer complaints

Many moons ago, or so it seems, I mentioned that I might be writing a 3rd article, about my recent dealings with Lloyds Bank. I am pleased to be able to say that the situation has now been resolved to my satisfaction, inasmuch as I am now in the same position as I would have been if the circumstances giving rise to my complaint had not occurred in the 1st place. In addition, I received £75.00 by way of compensation.

However, whilst waiting for the outcome of this situation, I have had cause to make a consumer complaint to a manufacturing firm regarding 1 of their products. I shall not name the firm for the present, as I am still awaiting a reply from them.

Nevertheless, my dealings with Lloyds Bank and my current complaint have led me to write a brief(ish) piece on the various consumer complaints that I have made in the past, and their various outcomes.

Firstly, I would like to say that I am not a habitual complainer, as I hope this record will show. There are, however, 4 complaints, including the present 1 which come to mind over the years.

The 1st 1 relates to a bag of Whitworth’s sugar which I bought a few years ago. I carried it in my bag, along with my other shopping for the short journey from my local convenience store to my home. Upon unloading the bag the paper bag containing the sugar split suddenly causing the entire contents of said bag to cascade on to the floor. Less than 1 third was able to be recovered and used. The reason for the paper bag’s collapse was an almost non-existent amount of glue having been used in its construction. Also, instead of being folded over and stuck together properly, the base of the paper bag had been gathered together, rather like the construction of a Christmas cracker, but not as solidly. The edge of the bag had been cut by what appeared to be pinking shears, adding to its festive associations.

I made these various points known to Messrs. Whitworths in a reasonable manner, by means of a polite letter, pointing out that there appeared to have been a flaw in the manufacture of their bag.

What was their response? Absolutely nothing. I might as well have saved myself the bother of writing. Needless to say, I have never bought, and never intend to buy, Whitworth’s sugar, or any of their other products again.

My 2nd consumer complaint was in 2012. I remember this because it was in connection with an Olympics competition, run by Trebor mints, part of the Cadbury group. I am pleased to say that I won a small prize in this competition, but my pleasure in winning it was marred by the fact that when it arrived, or rather, when the empty envelope which once contained it arrived, my prize was nowhere to be seen. I have reason to believe that the prize was stolen by somebody who was living in the same building at the time, or the postman. I am inclined to lean towards the former.

After all, a postman who wanted to steal something would hardly leave the empty envelope at the delivery address, thereby declaring his guilt for all to see.  In addition, my suspect, or 1 of his friends was not averse to treading chewing-gum into the carpet outside my front door, just for fun.

However, I digress! I wrote to Cadbury’s, expressing my disappointment at what had happened. Whilst I accept that they were in no way liable for what had occurred, I pointed out that this was a matter of principle, and that there was no point in my, or anybody else’s, going in for sponsored competitions if the sponsors were going to be unable to ensure safe delivery of any prizes.

As this was a matter of principle, I would like to point out that it cost me more in postage, etc., in returning the packaging, than the prize was actually worth. I requested that they replace the prize with a voucher of equivalent value, and that they replied to me in a way which would not be instantly identifiable as notification of a competition win.

Again, I received no reply, not even a letter saying that they were sorry, but could do nothing about it. Once again, although I will still continue buying Trebor mints (because I like them), I will never again go in for any competition sponsored by Cadbury’s if this is the way that they treat their entrants/winners.

My 3rd consumer complaint, was not really a complaint. I had purchased a bag of frozen smoked fish (haddock or mackerel, I forget which). I keep all my stuff in my freezer listed in date order so that I do not let anything hang around too long. Due to a printing error the use by date had become smudged, and was unreadable, but the packing code was there clearly.

I telephoned the customer services number for the Co-op (which was where I had bought the fish), and was told that they would not be able to tell me the use by date from the packing code. They suggested that I threw the item away, or returned it to the shop for them to do likewise, and they would send me a £5.00 voucher (which was more than the cost of the food, and the telephone call was free), which arrived within a matter of days.

As an update, I can reveal the name of the company involved in my latest correspondence. They are Kepak Convenience Foods T/A Rustlers. I purchased a Rustlers Deluxe Burger from my local convenience store, and upon opening the packaging, I discovered that the burger, with cheese and bacon, did not contain any of the said bacon.

I wrote to the consumer complaints address on the packaging, which is situated in Dublin (the address, not the packaging!), in August and I received a reply on 5/9/14. This stated that they were concerned to hear of my experience, and as compensation, enclosed 2 vouchers for replacement products, free of charge.

So here we have 4 businesses, 2 large, 2 smaller, and 2 different types of response. It begs the question of, if 2 of these businesses, Rustlers and the Co-op could provide a swift, and more than satisfactory resolution, why couldn’t the other 2?

Given the freedom of consumer choice available, there are no prizes for guessing whose products I shall be continuing to buy in the future, and those who I won’t.

I do not intend to fill my blog space up with writing just for the sake of it, so, unless anything of interest to the wider world (if the wider world even considers my other efforts to be of interest!) occurs, this will be the last for a while.

Many thanks to anybody who has taken the trouble to read any of my items.

My website problems

About 1 year ago, in May, I received a telephone call out of the blue, from a company stating that they had obtained my details from the Buy With Confidence website. I am a member of Buy With Confidence. As a result of the caller stating that they had obtained my details from that organisation, I did not bother to check up on them, as I assumed that they must have had some sort of arrangement with the local Trading Standards Service, who operate the Buy With Confidence scheme in various parts of the country.

The caller stated that they would offer me a free website, as I was a member of Buy With Confidence, as they were seeking to help small businesses who did not have a website to obtain 1 and thereby have a web presence. I agreed, whereupon they informed me that there would, of course, be a charge for the hosting, etc., of £100.00 plus V. A. T. As I am not  V. A. T. registered, this means that the site would actually cost me £120.00.

I decided in favour of a site, as I thought that it would be a good idea to see if having a site made any difference to my business; as 99.9% of my business comes from personal recommendation, I thought that was unlikely, but I decided to give it a go.

After a couple of months of discussion and to and fro-ing with regard to the actual design details, the site was up and running by about mid-July. Although I had received only received 1 enquiry from the site, and that did not turn into business, this was about what I had expected. In fact the enquiry originated from the Buy With Confidence website in the 1st place, so effectively there was no business emanating from my site.

As this was what I was expecting, I decided to put it all down to experience, and to say that I had at least given having a website a go, although it was not really suitable for the way that I run my business.

From July onwards, about every 2 months, I received a “hard sell” type of telephone call from the same people, asking me if I wanted to upgrade, buy add-ons, etc., all of which I declined. I had previously informed the company concerned that I was really only trying out the idea of having a website, and that the basic 1 would be good enough for a trial for the 1st year.

In January, I received a telephone call from the company, stating that although I had paid by cheque for my website, this would not be acceptable for the next year’s hosting fee. I explained that as I was only really trying out the idea, there was a distinct possibility that I would not want the website for the following year anyway. I had previously been told that I would have to pay the equivalent of 1 year’s hosting fee for the privilege of leaving the arrangement.

After my having told them this, I was repeatedly asked for my credit card details. When I asked why, I was told that the company had to have them because the method that I had used to pay for my website would not be available as an option in the future.

I still could not see why they needed this information, but they kept on, and eventually, reluctantly, and indeed, untypically, I finally released my card details. I repeated my demand as to why they needed my details there and then, and I was told that they wanted to take the next year’s hosting fee off me. As the renewal date was not until May, 2014, and the website had been up and running for only 6 months, I protested that it was a bit early to be taking a renewal fee, 6 months early, in fact!

The reply was, well we have already taken the fee now (within less than 1 minute!). I objected to this and stated that I was not happy with this situation, and that I would consider taking further action. I was then offered my website, copyright-free for the same amount that I had paid them.

As this was a possible course of action that I had intended when I took up the offer of the website, I decided that this would at least cut my losses. I am pleased to say that my site was delivered within a couple of hours; maybe they could not wait to get rid of me!

Needless to say it was in the form of a zipped file, which I could not open with any programme on my computer, nor, indeed, anything that I could download off the internet. So, I now have a website that is all mine, it has only cost me £264.00 (the 2nd year’s hosting fee had gone up), which I am unable to open, has produced no business, and I cannot even upload to my present site (this blog), without paying yet another fee. At least my business is not dependent on a site!

If there is anybody reading this, be warned, this company is not a web design company, it is a sales company, who use existing templates and substitute your details into the appropriate slots. Not much design there!

Finally, I am still concerned that they have my credit card details, although they have promised to destroy them, and I have been in touch with my local Trading Standards Service, who have written to them twice in at least a month, and have received no reply.

When I looked up this company’s own website, and the associated forums, it appears that they have a complete department solely to deal with correspondence from Trading Standards! Enough said, I think!!

I suppose that I should consider that I have got away lightly, and I do, but I worry what might have happened had I taken up some of their upgrades, such as search engine optimisation, which according to the forums, does not work at all!

If anybody reading this has had a similar experience, I would be interested to hear, but I would warn them that I do not spend all day, every day, on the net, so it may be a while before I see any response, and consequently get back to you, if necessary.

Owing to an unprecedented response (nothing at all), I have decided to go public with the name of the company concerned. This is Webworks Internet. I do not intend to publish the names of any individuals that I have dealt with, as I am sure that they were simply following orders, and, to judge from other websites, there are a large number of disaffected ex-employees of this company about, to provide evidence of what has gone on within their company.

It may well now be, that with the naming of the company concerned, and with the additional tags that I have put on this piece, that there may be people about, reading this who would not have responded before as they would not have known which company I was writing about.

I also have a possible battle looming with Lloyds Bank, but that will have to form the basis of another item!