jfs: (Default)
I've got today off work. Originally it was just a 'need to use up leave before the leave year ends' but it's turned into a decorating day, because last week some bugger tried to break into my flat.

Nothing was taken, no real damage done - they didn't even get into my flat itself - they tried to jimmy the front door and when that didn't work they broke one of the panes of glass to get to the lock. The police think at that point they saw that there were two more front doors (both more substantial to the external one) and gave it up as a bad job. What's the joke? You can't keep out a professional - all you can do is dissuade the chancers.

Anyway, upstairs flat have been brilliant - one of them works for a joinery company so I came back in the evening to find the door boarded, the police called and a promise that if I was okay with it, we could get a new front door fitted at effectively cost. So I had a chat with them, agreed that none of us particularly trusted the old door any more and that for the price we were going to get charged, we'd be stupid not to.

So today, I'm staining my lovely new door a teak colour - one coat down, two to go.

I rang my insurance, of course. Gave them the crime number and, given that the door had been made secure, they promised to send out an inspector to assess the damage. Oh, and because it's a shared part of the property, they'd only pay half of the damage. I have to pay my full excess of course, but they insisted that the upstairs flat's insurance pays half too.

Can you see where this is going yet?

Monday, the insurance assessor for the upstairs flat came out. Wednesday the insurance assessor for my flat came out.

And when he looked at my front door (old, now in the front yard) he grinned and said "No real reason to change my report from Monday, is there?"

We're on different insurance companies, so it's not _quite_ as bad as if we had been, but even so ....
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Less than 24 hours after ringing the NPower Executive Complaints team, Katherine rang me. The issue is resolved, and they offered me compensation without me having to hint about it at all :-). They're also investigating the metering company that they outsource to to find out why they reported the number wrong so that it _shoudn't_ happen again.

It's a shame that the error happened in the first place (again), but I do like that team. That's two different members of it that have been incredibly efficient.
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Checking my LJ archive, it was just about a year ago, on the 13th May 2009 that I posted that Brian, the ubergeek from NPower's Executive Complaints team had solved an issue that had been dragging on for 18 months.

This morning I received a bill from NPower for just over £1000 for the gas I'd used between February and April.

To put it in context, that's 2 years normal use. And (for those of you who remember) it's exactly what I'd feared would happen 2 and a half years ago. They've taken a meter reading that's completely and utterly wrong - 700 units out - and applied that as my gas usage.

Today I found out that Brian's name is one to conjour with. Because when I rang the NPower complaints line and said "This is a problem, and it's the second time you've done exactly this, and Brian on your Executive Complaints Team spent a lot of time fixing this last year" the first response of the person I was talking to was "Would you like us to escalate this immediately to Executive Complaints?"

Why, yes. Yes I would.

The really funny point was that I asked "So - do you not have systems in place to check when someone's balance shoots up a ridiculous amount - say when it looks like they've used 2 years worth of their normal consumption in 3 months?" and the customer services agent said "Yes. We do. We have a quality assurance check whenever an increase over a certain amount is applied."

There was the sound of keys clicking in the background.

"Yes. Um. It appears that the quality assurance check was done on that increase. Um. It passed."

"So," I said, trying not to sound like a shark circling a bleeding man _too_ much, "Your quality assurance check. It's of low quality and not very assuring?"

"It certainly looks that way" he had the grace to admit.

I have a complaint number (to add to the 7 or 8 complaint numbers I acquired last time), an assurance that they're going to issue me with a new bill in the next week or so, and a promise that Executive Complaints will be ringing me later today.

Wish me luck.
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I've just found out, thanks to the BBC, that Mike Gapes, Labour MP for Ilford, claimed £22,000 last year for his additional living allowance, and then a further £3000 on travel expenses. And those travel expenses are supposed to be for his constituency business.

That's Ilford. Zone 4. Outer London.

My travelcard, which gives 24 hour travel for a year, is £1400, give or take. I have to pay for that.

A taxi from Westminster to Ilford costs roughly £40 after midnight. Maybe £50 [livejournal.com profile] feistyredhead used to often have to get a cab home if she worked on an event that went on after the tubes finished. Her work paid for that. I don't have a problem with that.

But do the maths.

Parliament doesn't sit late any more - deliberately to make it family friendly. Mike Gapes could have a travelcard, and get a taxi home twice a week, and it would cost £7,400.

Why is he allowed to claim £25,000 instead?

I've sent him the following message. I'm going to be interested in his response.


Dear Mr Gapes,

Given the scandal enveloping the Houses of Commons at the moment concerning MPs expenses, I was wondering if you'd care to comment on the fact that the BBC are alleging that you claimed £22,000 for a second home allowance in 2007 / 8?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8044207.stm

If their allegation is true, I'm assuming one of your two homes is in Ilford, where I live.

Ilford, which is in Zone 4.

Ilford, which is about an hour away from Westminster by public transport, and about the same by car.

Mr Gapes - how many of your constituents do you think work in the centre of London? And of those, how many would you estimate have the luxury of getting £22,000 per year to obtain and maintain a property closer to where they work in addition to a salary at least twice the national average?

Yours sincerely,

John Scott

Finally!

May. 13th, 2009 12:36 pm
jfs: (Default)
My gas account is sorted.

And it should come as no surprise to those of you who have been following this somewhat sorry saga that Brian, the Saint of Customer Service, has just been on holiday "taking photographs of buses and coaches."

It's somewhat of a hobby of his.

I've just printed out the letter I'm going to be sending to the head of Customer Relations at npower, thanking them for Brian's efforts on my behalf.
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You may or may not be aware that earlier this month, it became illegal to photograph or video a police officer or soldier if the resulting images are "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".

Read that carefully.

It doesn't suggest that the photographer has to have the intent of committing a terrorist act. Just that the photos are likely to be useful to someone who is. So if I take a photograph of a police officer, and then my camera is stolen by a terrorist, and they then use the photo to identify a member of Her Majesty's Constabulary, I could be liable for prosecution. It also doesn't matter if they're serving or retired; in uniform or in plain clothes.

[livejournal.com profile] severe_delays has some interesting thoughts on the matter.

I particularly like the thought raised in the comments that any shop that has CCTV will now, for the sake of their own legal well being, have to ban all police officers, soldiers or members of the intelligence services from any areas covered by CCTV.

Oh - and expect mass arrests at the next Changing of the Guard. All those tourists? Potentially aiding terrorists.

Sheesh.
jfs: (Default)
I know you're all waiting for the latest installment with bated breath ....

I received a letter from the blessed Brian (see paens of praise passim) saying that it had all worked out okay, and that as of December 20th, my meter reading was XXXX and my outstanding balance was 4p. (XXXX being a plausible number, and certainly a lot nearer to my actual meter reading than the one they had previously, which was 9000 units away).

Now, I find that the 4p balance is awfully convenient - after all, it means that they haven't been overcharging me while they've been messing up my account. But I wasn't sure that I was willing to argue this too much. After all, once I'm happy that they're looking at the right numbers, I can argue for compensation then cancel my account with them. So frankly, I'll take that.

Except I got an email last night saying that my bill had been updated, and, more ominously, "Important: There’s additional information on this bill which you should take the time to read as it may affect the payment amount or due date.".

Really?

Would that important information be the fact that I'm now £60 in debit, rather than 4pence perhaps? Could nPower be juggling the numbers somewhat? Could they be undermining the efforts of their own Executive Complaints team?

So, once more, game on.

Only this time I have an 0800 number and a name.

Torpedoes in the water.
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You know, I think the banks are a lot to blame for phishing phone calls and emails.

They tell us that we shouldn't give out details of our account, or our security questions without knowing who we're giving them to, but have you ever actually tried to challenge one of them when they phone you?

I know I've blogged about this before, but I had a conversation on Wednesday that went something like this.

My phone rings. The number is withheld. I answer.

Them: "Hello - this is Barclays. We need to clarify a few details. Can I get you to answer some security questions first?"

Me: "That depends. What is this concerning?"

Them: "I'm sorry, I can't tell you that until you've confirmed who you are."

Me: "I'm not answering any questions until you can confirm who you are. What's my account number?"

Them: "I can't tell you that until I can confirm who you are. What's your date of birth?"

Me: "I'm not answering that until you can confirm ..."

etc. etc. ad infinitum.

The worst of it is that they always seem so affronted that I'm daring to question them. Yet I'm pretty sure that if I rang up and said "my identity has been stolen and I think it was because someone rang up and asked me for my date of birth and my mother's maiden name and they said they were you so I gave it to them" they'd say that I was the one at fault.

The banks need to catch up. They need to stop asking us to go to paperless statements, but then demanding to see original copies of our last statements before proceeding with a mortgage application or bank loan. They need to work out that trust is a two-way process and that if they want us to be careful with our identity, they need to work out some secure way for us to identify them.

If they want us to be more secure, they have to be more secure too.

In the end, I said I'd call the person back. He said "Here's my phone number" at which I laughed, and said I'd look up the Barclays Customer Service number on the web - if I didn't trust him enough to give him my details, I wasn't going to trust any phone number he gave me either.

I think he thought I was paranoid.
jfs: (penalty)
Further to this cheery little post I received a chirpy answerphone message from some woman from nPower's Complaints department saying "We've checked our records and nothing is wrong, so we've closed your complaint".

Which is lovely, and I'm glad that she's so happy, but when my complaint is that their records are at fault, using them as the method of determining whether or not my complaint is valid or not, and therefore whether it needs to be actioned or not is a little stupid, no?

It will surprise no-one that I have been on hold for 20 minutes without talking to a human being yet. But it's okay, because "my call is important to us".

Do they not realise that the longer I'm on hold, the more shit they're going to get? Surely someone in the call centre business has worked out that simple equation?

I would consider going to the watchdogs about this, but frankly, they're EnergyWatch whose website is at http://www.energywatch.org.uk/

Anyone following that link will see why I'm not holding out great hopes for them to be my best advocate.
Read more... )
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So, a long while ago, I set up gas and electricity from Npower, because they had a green electricity tariff; one of the first to do so, I believe. I also wanted desperately to move from British Gas because they're basically twatweasels of the highest order.

Last year, Npower started sending me "We're sorry you're leaving us" letters. Each time I rang up and found out that British Gas were trying to take my gas supply without me ever having asked them to. So I had to instruct Npower to block the attempt each time, and then ring British Gas to rant at them.

Eventually, British Gas won. Well - Npower were sending the letters via the Royal Mail, so you have to figure that that sterling organisation was going to fuck up something as simple as delivering a letter, don't you? Frankly, I was lucky to get as many of the 'sorry you're leaving' letters as I did. So I missed one, didn't phone in to cancel it, and British Gas got their grubby hands on my gas account.


I didn't notice for a while. For 'a while', read '8 months'. After all, my gas was still coming out of the taps, money was still going out of my account to Npower via direct debit. But then Npower sent me a letter saying "Here's the balance of your account" and £100 appeared back in my bank account.

So I rang, and found out that Npower thought that they had stopped being my provider in November 2007, only it had taken British Gas 8 months to send them the final meter reading so they could end my account.

Cue much ringing around to sort out exactly whose testicles I was going to be forcing through the blender, and much worrying on my part as to whether, once I was reconnected to NPower, I was going to be hit all at once with a bill for the last 9 months of gas. Finally, last Friday, I got to speak to someone at Npower who confirmed that British Gas had given them back my account, and that luckily, the meter reading that BG had given them was quite a bit higher than the one from last November.

Essentially, because it was their mistake, it looks like British Gas are swallowing the cost of the gas I've used between November 07 and August 08.

So, I can hear you all thinking, what's the problem? Are John's diamond shoes too tight? Is his wallet too smal for his £50 notes?

If only.

The problem I have is that the meter reading that Npower are starting my new account with is 8000 units lower than the meter reading on my actual meter. Looking back at old bills, that's about 4 years usage.

Did I mention I live in a flat? A flat with the gas meter in the basement? A flat with a gas meter on the outside of the house which actually belongs to the flat upstairs?

Would anyone like to take a guess as to what happened there?

(The worst of it is that I'm pretty certain that the meter on the outside of the house is a key meter ....)

Some idiot gas meter reader has come around, seen the meter on the outside of the house, not bothered double checking to see that the serial numbers match, and recorded an entirely new meter reading number. And no-one at the company checked to see why the numbers had changed so much.

And to top it all, the problem started with Npower, not with British Gas. So now I have two companies to shout at instead of one.

I really could do without this.
jfs: (Default)
No02ID are asking people who signed their pledge against ID cards in 2005 to send them cash for a legal defence fund - not unreasonable, given that that's what people signed up for.

http://www.no2id.net/pledge/index.php

Despite not signing at the time (at least, I'm pretty sure I didn't, and haven't received my email from them saying "you remember that tenner you said we could have ....?") I'm sending them cash now.

I may be over-reacting though - after all, it's not like the government have ever proved that they might have a problem keeping personal data secure, is it?

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