Delivering Poor Customer Service – Sony and 4ourhouse.co.uk

February 16, 2012

All the DeliverDemon needed was a replacement battery for a perfectly good laptop that has been around for a couple of years. Previous experience with Sony meant it was no surprise to discover that Sony discontinue supply of their model-specific batteries long before the average lifespan of the laptop has expired. The Sony callcentre gave the DeliveryDemon the number of their accessory supplier 4ourhouse.co.uk as a supplier of the required battery model. The DeliveryDemon does NOT recommend this outfit. Why?

  1. The wrong battery turned up
  2. The price which had been quoted was not the price for the battery required – the correct battery, needless to say, was more expensive than the quoted price
  3. They cannot just send out the correct item, the customer has to pay for a new item and go through a time consuming process in order to get a refund on the incorrect item
  4. The promised email details for a return did not arrive
  5. The callcentre system loses incoming calls
  6. 4ourhouse had incorrectly recorded the DeliveryDemon’s email address – a particularly stupid mistake as the email address uses the same name as was correctly entered on the delivery address
  7. The callcentre cannot change an incorrect email address
  8. The supervisor gave a time of up to 24 HOURS to get an email out through their automated system.

That is one hell of a lot of mistakes and stupidities to pick up on one single, simple order. And of course every facet of this error allows 4ourhouse to use their own mistake to hold on to the customer’s money. In the meantime the customer, instead of having the convenience of online purchasing, has to waste time taking the incorrect item to the Post Office and obtaining proof of posting.

This is a stunning example of practices which give a bad name to online retailing. The DeliveryDemon will NOT be wasting any more time buying via 4ourhouse.co.uk In fact, the DeliveryDemon, after several years of using Sony equipment is seriously considering changing to a manufacturer with a more ethical and effective spares supply chain.

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Delivering Lack of Credibility

February 15, 2012

Enclosed with the DeliveryDemon’s shocker of a winter gas bill was the most infuriating whinge letter from British Gas. They are clearly ensconced on the current commercial bandwagon whereby suppliers are trying to deny any responsibility for the cost of doing business.

From utilities to airline tickets to online retailers, companies are passing on to their customers the cost of doing business, completely ignoring the fact that normal pricing practice already takes account of this. In other words, these companies are ramping up their profits by double charging. Needless to say, when the cost of doing business drops, the price reduction rarely matches that drop and the reduction is never factored into both of the double charging elements.

British Gas’s whinge was that it had no control over the cost of infrastructure or wholesale prices so, poor profitable mega corp, it was forced into passing on price increases to its customers. So how real is this claim?

First, infrastructure. We have an artificial market here, with money bouncing between the profit-making body responsible for infrastructure and the profit making body responsible for billing. The infrastructure body has no responsibility to end consumers and the billing company has no will to negotiate reductions in the amount it is charged for infrastructure. In other words, there is a serious flaw in the artificial market created by the breakup of utility monoliths.

Gas wholesale prices seems, on the surface, to be more plausible – until you look at the facts behind it. The DeliveryDemon had a quick look at gas bills over the last few years and compared them to wholesale gas prices. Since the price of gas is supposedly less than 50% of the bill, it would be reasonable to expect gas bills to reflect this.

Using 1999 as the base, wholesale prices peaked briefly in 2005, before dropping back to 423% of base. In the same period, unit prices to consumers leapt to 256% of base, staying above 200% of base despite wholesale prices dropping. Current consumer prices are 254% of base, while wholesale prices are 167% of base. Clearly not a good deal for consumers, and confirmation that, while wholesale price increases are passed on, the same cannot be said of decreases.

And what has this meant for British Gas? Profit has gone from £365M to £2,400M, a 650% increase. Dividends per share has gone from 8.6p to 21.6p, a 250% increase.

A simplistic analysis, perhaps. But simplicity has a way of highlighting the important points. And it is very clear that consumers are NOT getting a good deal from British Gas.

The DeliveryDemon has a message for British Gas, and for the many other large corporations trying to mask profiteering.

You are a large, profitable and powerful organisation, and you are not offering customers a good deal. STOP trying to pretend you are hard done by. There is not a cat in hell’s chance of anyone taking your complaints seriously. It just emphasises your role in rip-off Britain.


Delivering Support for Scammers at Taxpayers’ Expense

February 9, 2012

The DeliveryDemon has been analysing the lifecycle of the common bureaucratic organisation. It is very obvious that bodies set up to deal with offences against consumers very quickly morph into something very different and much less useful. Being a bureaucratic organisation, they discourage individual responsibility in favour of box ticking and remote decision making. They quickly avoid dealing with the individual consumer, preferring to collect statistics via paperwork and cosy chats with representative organisations. This of course leaves the individual consumer dealing with layers of obfuscating bureaucracy on top of the original problem. And of course, all this bureaucracy is being paid for by the taxpayer.

These thoughts were prompted by the DeliveryDemon’s recent dealings with phone scammers. It’s common knowledge that these cold callers represent companies who profit from the sale of dubious products. They are known to target the elderly and vulnerable, timing calls for when these people are most likely to be home. The scammers frequently try to give the impression of legitimacy by using wording which conveys the impression that they are some sort of government body, and that they have the callee’s details from some official source. Recent scams include solar heating and payment protection insurance claims.

The DeliveryDemon registered with the Telephone Preference Service a long time ago, but this doesn’t stop the calls. First they exclude ‘market research’. Of course this is handing a ‘get out of jail free’ card to the scammers. All they have to do is ask a few questions to claim they are carrying out market research. Each time the DeliveryDemon looks at the TPS website, the list of things they don’t cover has grown longer, but TPS is still being touted as the best way to avoid scam calls.

The DirectGov website is promoting a new bureaucratic setup which enables simultaneous signup to TPS and MPS which supposedly stops junk mail. Guess what! The signup site brings up a warning message – ‘The security certificate presented by this website has expired or is not yet valid. Security certificate problems may indicate an attempt to fool you or intercept any data you send to the server.’

A mere few months ago, the DeliveryDemon became aware of the National Fraud Authority’s Action Fraud line 0300 123 2040. At the time the DeliveryDemon’s household was being plagued by multiple daily autodial calls from the solar heating scammers. After a couple of calls to Action Fraud, the scammers stopped calling. Great. But in a few short months it appears that Action Fraud has been quick to take the path of bureaucratic decline. The DeliveryDemon received a series of calls from PPI Claims scammers implying they had something to do with the Ministry of Justice and that they had some knowledge of a claim the DeliveryDemon was entitled to make. So the DeliveryDemon traced the callers and reported them to Action Fraud, only to be told that this was probably just their sales line. So that’s OK then? No it’s NOT. A dishonest sales line is a scam, that is and attempt to use deception to part the callee from cash. In other words it’s attempted fraud. The DeliveryDemon is nothing if not persistent and eventually Action Fraud grudgingly agreed to record the scam details for their records, but announced that TPS and the Information Commissioner were the correct complaint route.

The ICO does give advice on dealing with scam callers. ‘If you receive an automated marketing call or live marketing call which you think breaches the Regulations you should write to or email the organisation concerned (remembering to keep a copy of all correspondence). Tell them about the problem and allow them time to put things right. If you continue to receive marketing calls despite registering with TPS, or asking the organisation to stop, we may be able to help.’

Seriously, the ICO will only consider dealing with a complaint once the callee has actively engaged with the scammers. In other words, the caller has to provide the scammer with sufficient information to allow the scammer to validate the nature of the number they have been calling – and, like email address lists, phone lists can be sold for more if it has been validated that there’s a real private individual at the end of the line. This is common knowledge for anyone advising on personal security matters.

So that’s four taxpayer funded organisations all claiming to deal with phone scams, and all getting less and less effective, dropping responsibilities and passing the buck. The StayPrivate one has sprung into existence in a time of so-called austerity, and appears to bring no benefits to the table. What’s the point of politician’s airy persiflage when cutbacks in extravagance are promised on one hand, and money tossed away with the other? The DeliveryDemon despairs!