EE Failures – the Saga Continues

May 29, 2015

EE, having promised to phone between 12 and 3 today, failed to do so, wasting yet another half day of the DeliveryDemon’s time. This company is demonstrating quite unashamedly that it has no intention of providing the service being paid for, or any other form of customer service.

Telecomms is part of any country’s national infrastructure these days, and an essential utility for everyday living. People deprived of an effective telecomms service are being cut off from some of life’s essentials. The DeliveryDemon has decided to see if those paid to represent the interests of the public are actually prepared to take action when an infrastructure provider is in such blatant breach of its responsibilities. She has emailed those whose roles claim some responsibility in this area. It will be interesting to see whether any of them are prepared to take action.

The local MP, Tom Pursglove seems to be an obvious contact to start with. The email has received an automated reply.

David Cameron is far too grand to accept normal email, and restricts communications to a form limited to a measly 1000 characters. On top of this he requires an email confirmation.

Sajid Javid has responsibility for business innovation, and should be interested in the way infrastructure failure affects small businesses. The email has received an automated reply.

Greg Clark is another minister with responsibilities for local businesses. He doesn’t seem to have an automated acknowledgement set up.

John Whittingdale has responsibilities for next generation mobile communications, so might be expected to understand that you can’t build a next generation on the foundations of the failing current generation. No automated acknowledgement from him either.

Sharon White heads Ofcom, so should have an interest in the fact that their dispute resolution arrangements are worse than useless. No automated acknowledgement yet.

Elizabeth Truss has responsibility for rural affairs so should be interested in broadband failure outside the M25. No acknowledgement so far.

Matthew Hancock, with Cabinet Office responsibility, should have an interest in the gross deficiencies in provision of national infrastructure. Another automated acknowledgement.

Cabinet Minsters have a lazy habit of not providing ministerial contact details until you email them, then announcing that you have to use a completely different email address – hardly a commitment to serving the public who pay them. So that means another bout of emailing to get past that barrier. Open government anyone??

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Delivering Infrastructure Failure, Delivering Fraudulent Bills

May 28, 2015

To describe it politely, the EE service amounts to crap. The broadband itself is bad enough – ongoing SNR problems mean something as simple as getting a connection to common or garden websites is a hit and miss affair. Ping time can exceed 8500 ms and speed can drop as low as 0.04 Mbps for download. What EE call ‘broadband’ fails dismally to meet definitions of the term, to the extent that, in charging what they provide as if it were broadband, they are in fact defrauding customers.
In the US, broadband is now defined as 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload, a definition also being used by government body Broadband Delivery UK. These are figures which EE never reaches. It even fails to meet the old-fashioned definition of 4/1 Mbps.
And of course, speed figures are completely irrelevant when EE fails entirely to connect to websites.
For months the DeliveryDemon has been trying to get EE to sort its service, through various channels. The hell line is as dire as one would expect from an Indian call centre whose staff match their arrogance level to their total technical incompetence. Front line phone drones reading mindlessly through badly designed scripts actually claim to be ‘technical support’, totally unaware that this claim has no credibility whatsoever. And of course, it is completely impossible to get these idiots to record anything which doesn’t fit their scripts.
Time and again the DeliveryDemon has spelt out in the simplest of words that speed is not the primary issue, that the problem is EE equipment failing to make connections. Invariably the response is that the line speed is OK, a completely different issue and a stunning display of incomprehension of the fact that point measurement of line speed is no indicator of what is happening over time.
Today the DeliveryDemon has spent over an hour getting past EE’s complaints blocking processes. The phone drone whined that their account system was down so they couldn’t get off their backside to do anything. It doesn’t actually require any account information to check whether there is a problem at an exchange, but doing that would be too much like providing customer service, and that’s not the EE way.
Eventually the DeliveryDemon managed to battle through the obstructions to find someone who would listen and exert a modicum of intelligence. That person actually recognised that the problem was on their records as being longstanding – not that EE had actually done anything to deal with it, other than continue its fraudulent billing for a service it wasn’t providing.
You might expect that an ongoing problem like this could be dealt with via the regulator, Ofcom. Not so. Ofcom, with the responsibility for dealing with poor customer service from telecoms companies, outsources this tedious core activity to a bunch called CISAS. Well, that’s what they call themselves on the Ofcom website but it’s actually a company called IDRS, and they are signally unfit to deal with the most basic elements of complaint handling.
The first step is to record the complaint online, using a site designed by morons. Font size fails the most basic accessibility criteria. The site makes no mention of the word complaint, you are supposed to guess that you have to ‘make an application’. Then it’s necessary to guess the meaning of unexplained acronyms. After this, the system churns out a reference number along with the statement that, if IDRS don’t receive your supporting information within 5 days, they won’t get off their backsides. No intelligent assessment of whether any additional information is actually needed, and certainly no statement of what additional information is needed.
It gets worse from there. IDRS don’t actually process the complaint, they try to sell their paid for dispute resolution service, for a job they are already being paid public money to perform. Needless to say, the DeliveryDemon was not happy with the misuse of her data for such sleazy sales tactics, and the Information Commissioner upheld her complaint.
Eventually CISAS / IDRS agreed to do the job they are being paid to do, and actually deal with the complaint by contacting EE. From today’s conversations it seems that there has been some sort of escalation within EE, in terms of recording the problem but not of doing anything about it. CISAS / IDRS have gone 10 weeks beyond the response time they eventually promised, and have made no contact whatsoever.
So, with that total absence of action, the DeliveryDemon spent several hours on the phone again today, eventually getting acceptance that someone needs to check for problems at the exchange.
Unfortunately, that checking is done by a bit of BT calling themselves Openreach. Yes, BT, not a company known for providing the most basic levels of customer service. How responsive are they? Responsive??? You must be joking. First they want the customer to waste an entire half day so the engineer can start with the standard lie that the fault is in the customer’s home and they will charge silly money to look at it. Yes, despite the fact that earlier attempts to solve the problem have covered all the necessary tests, these shysters will do their damndest to avoid doing basic maintenance tests on their own equipment. And not only that, even when they are not providing the service they charge for, they won’t even bother checking a problem for 5 days.
And, after all these delay, although EE has admitted fault and said that the DeliveryDemon will be compensated, it will be up to the DeliveryDemon to chase that compensation through an entirely different part of the organisation.
The saga didn’t stop there. BT sent out a landline engineer, not a broadband engineer. This engineer confirmed that there was no fault within the property – not news. Once again it’s down to the DeliveryDemon to try and get EE / Orange off their backsides to do what they are being paid to do.
Next thing is a junk call to the DeliveryDemon’s mobile, the usual sort of recorded and badly pronounced trash which scam call crooks tend to generate. The DeliveryDemon tends to report these to the various regulators, so checks to see if the owner of the number can be identified – lo and behold, this is EE making classic nuisance calls. Time to find out what the hell is going on now.
After battling through EE’s deliberately unhelpful IVR, the DeliveryDemon got through to the thinking of leaving section, only to get a shyster who insisted on trying to shift the DeliveryDemon to a cheaper plan, totally and misleadingly avoiding mentioning the fact that change to a different plan usually involves a contract lockin with penalties for leaving early. He repeatedly tried to push this new plan despite the DeliveryDemon making it abundantly clear that a plan change was not the aim of the call. There was a grudging mention of a month’s charges refund as compensation for months of non-service, even more grudgingly upped to 2 months when the DeliveryDemon pointed out that this was worse than derisory. Worse still, he promised a refund of the engineer callout charge as though it was compensation. Since the person who arranged this callout had already said there would be no charge, this looks like yet another EE cockup about to manifest itself on the DeliveryDemon’s bill.
It took the best part of an hour to get bounced back to EE’s useless first line support, who do nothing but revert mindlessly to scripted diagnostics and are incapable of understanding that, after multiple repetitions, this amounts to nothing but a waste of the customer’s time. Having been cut off, the DeliveryDemon phoned back, and was connected to someone with a basic understanding of customer service. However, after another 35 minutes, the trail ended with someone who called themself ‘Technical Support’ but was actually a first line phone drone. It turned out that his job is to tell the customer that a real technical support person will ring back a day later to arrange for an engineer to do tests.
So the process to date looks something like this:
•   Multiple timewasting calls over months with no improvement
•   Multiple instances of time wasted in repeating diagnostics and router swap which exclude the existence of problems which can be blamed on, and charged to, the customer
•   Complaint to the regulator, OFCOM, results in their outsourcer misusing complainant details to try and sell their paid for services
•   After ICO intervention, the outsourcer raises the complaint with EE and promises feedback. Neither the outsourcer nor EE does anything and deadlines pass
•   Contact with EE about further problems takes hours and eventually results in an agreement to get an engineer out 6 days later to check for faults on customer property
•   Promise of compensation but customer has to guess how to follow this up
•   Engineer confirms no problems on customer property. Unable to do any broadband checks since only trained for landlines
•   No-one at EE acts on this so customer has to chase again
•   EE tries to lock customer into new contract
•   After considerable customer effort, customer is bounced to first line phone drones who again fail to understand the issue and try to repeat the first steps of their mindless process
•   First line drone arranges for 2nd line to call 24 hours later to arrange for the engineering checks which should already have happened
•   Another automated call leaves a message requesting the customer rings a particular number. Person who answers doesn’t know what’s going on, can barely speak comprehensibly, and cannot transfer call to anyone else who might be competent to deal with it
Obviously, that’s not the end of the story, and the DeliveryDemon has no faith in EE doing anything useful, never mind shelling up for the fact that it has been charging for a service and not providing it.
With this one single service we have a classic example of why Britain’s infrastructure is being designed and managed to fail:
•   The regulator takes no responsibility for dealing with problems
•   The regulator makes no check on the competence and honesty of its outsourcers
•   The regulator’s outsourcer is fundamentally incapable of doing the job it is paid to do
•   The regulator’s outsourcer is using its access to personal data in ways which are a blatant breach of data protection legislation
•   The regulator’s outsourcer is not doing the job it is paid by the taxpayer to do
•   EE is getting away with charging for services it is not providing
•   EE is wasting customer time with a call centre staffed by incompetent and dishonest operators
•   EE, when fully aware of a problem, doesn’t bother to do anything about it unless the customer puts an incredible level of effort into trying to make them act
•   EE, like so many large companies, has no effective complaints process whatsoever
•   EE has no compunction about wasting customer time as an alternative to providing the service which customers pay for

And, on top of all this, it appears likely that the proposed merger between these two telecoms companies will go through on the Competition Commission’s nod, with every prospect of vast numbers of customers being locked without option into a service so bad that it amounts to blatant fraud.


Delivering Cartel Politics

April 21, 2015

UK politics are often defined as adversarial but a closer look at what’s happening shows a cartel masquerading as adversaries.
Cartel? Today’s definition is in terms of the commercial sector but the history of the words lies in the political arena. And in both environments a cartel is an agreement between those who control supply, in order to maximise their own benefits while excluding others from the same marketplace.
The DeliveryDemon has been struggling to decide how to vote in the forthcoming General Election. The main parties are too busy shovelling out marketing material to engage with real voters and are totally ignoring the press. Looking at their track records, there’s not a lot to choose between them. Looking at their PR bumf, none has a policy based on letting real people get on with their lives and limiting tax demands to what is needed for the efficient and effective provision of necessary services. There is a difference between the hinterlands of the various parties but it’s not something that affects the ravenous appetite for tax revenue of every single party.
What’s the difference between those hinterlands? That’s where privatisation comes in. Either tax revenue disappears into massive bureaucracy whose cost outweighs the money it spends on delivering services, or the revenue disappears into a massive bureaucracy whose activities swallow up money in administering the outsourcing of those services. Whatever the model, the bureaucracies constantly complain about lack of funds, and bolster their case by cutting services rather than by making the bureaucracy more efficient. Some choice!
Is the alternative the ‘protest’ candidates? The smaller parties without the backing to attain power? The independents? There isn’t an independent in the DeliveryDemon’s constituency and she hasn’t seen much from independents elsewhere. The smaller parties are following the examples of the larger ones in failing to engage with voters. The Scottish referendum showed UKIP sucking up to the cartel members who were using their publicity machines in a distinctly unethical effort to influence the results through threats. The Greens are wedded to large scale energy solutions which force a choice between environmental problems, rather than considering the sort of self-regulating solution which could be achieved by locating the problem, the solution, and the side effects in the area generating the demand. The SNP have Nicola Sturgeon, who may be the most professional politician on the scene at the moment. But SNP isn’t an option in the DeliveryDemon’s constituency, and anyway they wouldn’t get her vote after they decided to exclude native-born Scots from the referendum.
The DeliveryDemon is not alone in having a dilemma about how to cast her vote. It seems that a wide range of people have the same problem. At the last election, the idea of a hung Parliament seemed scary and unthinkable. But it happened, and this time round a hung Parliament seems almost inevitable.
The DeliveryDemon feels a need to exercise her vote as a form of damage limitation, but there doesn’t even seem to be an option which offers that.
In an ideal world, the DeliveryDemon would vote for a candidate whose overriding motivation was to represent the people who elected him / her, without giving priority to climbing the greasy pole of a career ladder within a self-perpetuating party structure. Or maybe she would vote for a unicorn. Given the current political climate, the DeliveryDemon has every confidence that she will meet that unicorn long before she sees a candidate worth voting for.


Delivering a Deaf Ear to the Electorate

April 8, 2015

Well, it’s over a week since the DeliveryDemon emailed David Cameron’s constituency office about the intrusion of multiple nuisance calls from his party. Has there been a reply? Has there even been an acknowledgement? Not a peep.

The DeliveryDemon is not party partisan. Rather she regards voting as a form of damage limitation. This one tiny example is part of the all-encompassing pattern which gives her reason to believe that no political party has any commitment to the issues which are important to the electorate.

The DeliveryDemon has a message for every single would be MP and their cohorts – if you want the least bit of credibility, be prepared to do the job that goes with the pay and publicity – listen to, and represent, the views of the people in your constituency.


Delivering Lack of Political Credibility – by Phone

March 30, 2015

Come election time, the DeliveryDemon expects politicos to pay at least lip service to the concerns of the electorate. Even in the Westminster bubble it would have been difficult to ignore the fact that, across the country, people are becoming increasingly annoyed by the sheer volume of blatant scam calls being made by crooks using automated dialling technology. The DeliveryDemon was more than a little annoyed to be pestered multiple times with calls from 0203 4765 258, despite telling them succinctly where to go.

Today’s call came across as a blatant scam. The caller started by claiming to be ringing from the Office of the Prime Minister, David Cameron. While the DeliveryDemon has plenty advice to offer politicos about what their electorate wants from them, she still thinks it highly unlikely that DC or any other politico would actually call her personally for such advice, so the call failed the most obvious credibility test. Then of course, there is the date. As of March 30th, the date of the call, Parliament is dissolved. There are no MPs and no Prime Minister. Credibility fail number two. When it transpired that the caller was from one of the legion of nuisance call companies, he struggled to provide the most basic information about his organisation – yet another indicator of scam calls.

The DeliveryDemon prefers to cast blame where it is well deserved, and it is quite possible that the caller was a run-of-the-mill scammer using the election period to try and add credibility to the scam. Equally it may be that the Tories are being bloody stupid, ignoring the reams of recent publicity and high profile regulator concern on the subject of nuisance calls. If the former is true, then it is right that the Tories should know how their candidate’s name is being used. If the latter is true, then the Tories, like all other parties, need to be reminded that they should pay attention to the concerns the electorate has been raising for months and years. In particular they should exercise the tiny amount of intelligence it takes to recognise how their junk calls may be received by those who have not agreed to be contacted in this way.

Since the nuisance caller claimed to be from David Cameron’s office, the DeliveryDemon considers it appropriate that he should know how his name is being used. After much searching, and failing to find an email address, she found a contact form which wasn’t limited to a couple of skimpy lines of content, and sent the message below.

Dear Mr Cameron,

Today I received, for the third time, a call from someone making the highly unlikely claim that they were from your office. This individual, with a voice like a comedy Tory, was determined to get at personal information but had not even bothered to get the correct location of the phone he was calling. Further probing came up with the name of a company called Return Marketing, and an address which did not match the Companies House registered address of a company with the same name.

Investigating Return Marketing showed that, under the DPA, they are registered to provide telecommunications services and to hold details of their customers. This is manifestly not the same as holding details of individuals who have not given their consent and using those details to make nuisance calls to them.

Clearly these calls have all the hallmarks of a scam and, given the current massive volume of attempted fraud by phone, this appears to be highly likely. Either this company is claiming to be from your office in an attempt to lend credibility to a dishonest attempt to get at people’s personal information, or you have commissioned an extremely unprofessional organisation which has failed even to comply with its statutory duties.

If you have in fact commissioned this rather unsavoury organisation, may I suggest that you should instruct them:
• Not to lie about where they are calling from
• To comply with their duties under the Data Protection Act
• Not to harass people with multiple calls
• To be honest about where they obtain details of the people they call
• When they call someone, to be ready to provide basic information to indicate their bona fides, such as full company name and number and registered address, and data protection registration number
• When told their calls are an unwelcome nuisance, not to make repeat calls to the same number.

If your party is in fact using these tactics to get at information, it shows little awareness of the industrial scale harassment being caused by scammers making millions of fraudulent calls every day. May I suggest that your party should factor this into your campaigning, and consider dealing with the issue in your policies, rather than lose credibility by behaving in exactly the same way as blatant crooks.

While this missive is addressed to the Tories, the DeliveryDemon is not party-partisan, and any politicos trying this phone ploy can expect to receive a similar communication.

Let’s face it, survey calls are unnecessary. If the politicos are not prepared to listen to what the electorate are telling them while there’s Parliament, the electorate has a lot more sense than to believe that politicos will live up to the promises they make in order to be elected – even if they go phoning around to try and find out which promises might garner votes.


Not Delivering Financial Regulation

February 18, 2015

The DeliveryDemon is sick to the back teeth of the legions of scammers who employ phone drones who are thick enough to expect people to believe them when they call out of the blue and try to scam all the personal data needed for ID theft and financial crime. When she can be bothered, she reports them to the appropriate regulatory bodies. DeliveryDemon does not have much faith in the great British bureaucracies, and in this she is rarely disappointed.

Take for example a call received recently from some sleazy bunch in Manchester calling themselves Beyond Comparison, pretending to offer free insurance. Obviously, the FCA should know about this sort of thing since either the company is regulated and not conforming to the rules, or it is not regulated and shouldn’t be peddling financial products and advice. In this case, the DeliveryDemon saw that they are registered with the FCA, so reported appropriately. She was somewhat flabbergasted to receive a reply claiming:

  • I’ve found an entry for Beyond Comparison.Com Limited (click link to double check), but I don’t know whether this is the same firm that contacted you.
  • If you do business with a firm we don’t regulate, you won’t have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme if you have a dispute or something goes wrong.
  • You haven’t provided me with enough information about who has contacted you for me to pass it anywhere. If you would like to provide us with any more information, you may wish to use our unauthorised firms reporting form

Yes, the FCA regulate this company but is indulging in a coverup by pretending it might be another company calling, and uses the opportunity to try and frighten a complainant by abdicating responsibility for companies operating within the FCA’s remit without authorisation. The FCA can identify the company as one it regulates but says it doesn’t have enough information to do anything about its malfeasance, and suggests I report it as unauthorised. Yes, really, the FCA suggests the DeliveryDemon should report an authorised firm as being unauthorised!

So what is the FCA choosing to ignore?

  • The DeliveryDemon has provided the company name, which is registered with the FCA.
  • The company call from a Manchester number and the company’s registered office is in Manchester
  • The company is phoning people claiming to hold data about them, which they are not authorised to hold.
  • The company are quoting as a source of personal information a company which has been dissolved for several years and never had authorisation to hold such information.
  • The company start by misleadingly offering free insurance, and only back off from this when explicitly queried about whether the caller is authorised to offer financial advice.
  • The company claim to be holding personal information but do not have a data protection registration

If the FCA can’t identify the company from the first two items, there’s something badly wrong with its process. If the FCA regards the other items as acceptable, it’s hardly surprising that the British financial sector is rife with corruption. But if the FCA isn’t going to get off its backside and do a bit of regulation, why the hell should the British taxpayer be paying nearly half a billion a year for this useless bureaucracy? Not only can we not trust financial companies, we can’t even trust the regulator to do its job.


Aiding and Abetting Criminal Activity

December 9, 2014

That’s what our phone companies are doing. It is an offence to harass people. It is fraud to entice people into believing that they have money due to them when the caller has no evidence that that is the case. It is an offence to hold people’s data without their permission. It is fraud to lie to persuade people to reveal their personal information. According to a government task force, a BILLION of these crimes are committed every year, with the assistance of our phone companies.
Our telecoms companies are making money out of these crooks, one way or another. They are certainly making no effort to prevent their infrastructure being used for criminal activity, despite being fully aware of the scale of what is going on. All we get is mealy mouthed platitudes recommending that we take actions which are either unfeasible or ineffective. Let’s get a few facts straight on just how useless these recommendations are.

  • Register with TPS? It’s a waste of time.
    • TPS doesn’t actually do anything with complaints
    • The crooks ignore TPS anyway
  • Block callers?
    • The crooks are spoofing numbers so blocking one number has little effect
  • Don’t answer if the number is withheld?
    • There are, unfortunately, some genuine companies which call from withheld numbers, ignoring good customer service for their own administrative convenience
  • Don’t answer if you don’t recognise the number?
    • Few if any people have complete knowledge of all the numbers they could be called from, whether personal or business. A child whose phone battery is dead could borrow a friend’s phone to call so no parent can afford to ignore unknown numbers. A friend can change phone number. A business contact could call from a landline when you only have their mobile number recorded. There is a host of reasons why a call from an unknown number could be both valid and important.

There are various reporting mechanisms – the ICO, Action Fraud, TPS, Ofcom, to name but a few. All those websites are badly designed. Their automated responses are uninformative and, in the case of Action Fraud, hide the content of their response in a dubious looking attachment. There is little if any evidence of any use being made of the information provided by these routes.
It would not be unreasonable to expect phone companies to make significant and meaningful effort to prevent their infrastructure being used to harass people, commit large scale fraud, and commit widespread identity theft. It would not be unreasonable to expect legitimate organisations not to behave in a way which emulates crooked behaviour.
Here are a few suggestions for the Nuisance Call Task Force.

  • Make it an offence to spoof a number
  • Make it an offence to deliver a call with a spoofed number
  • Make it an offence for a commercial organisation to withhold their number
  • Make it an offence for any organisation to sell or give away the personal details they collect
  • Limit the period for which an organisation can retain personal details and use them for sales and marketing
  • Create a single, simple, effective means of reporting the numbers used by scammers
  • Use the scammer reporting facility to create and maintain a single database of numbers recognised as being used by scammers
  • Make the database publicly visible
  • Flag numbers which are consistently being used in a criminal manner – say after 10 reports of the number as one which makes scam / harassing calls
  • Make it an offence for a phone company to issue the scamming number to anyone
  • Make the ban on reissue of scammer numbers meaningful – say a 10 year ban on their reissue
  • Make use of existing legislation to prosecute scammers for harassment as well as data protection and telecoms offences
  • Hold the directors of those companies responsible – directors of the calling company, its parent company, and any company on whose behalf it makes outbound calls
  • Since the crimes are being committed in this country in the homes of those being called, ignore the country of residence of those responsible for the scams and arrest any responsible directors who set foot in this country
  • Recognise that it is individuals who are responsible for encouraging / permitting these crimes and hold all directors responsible and liable to prosecution
  • Set penalties so that they automatically include both default and a significant fine

So why does the DeliveryDemon thinks this would work?

  • It will create an incentive for phone companies to take responsibility for the way in which they allow their infrastructure to be used
  • It would prevent genuine customers from being issued with numbers which people have blocked because the numbers were being used for scam calls
  • It would prevent banks from grooming their customers to give away security information to people who call them – for over a decade banks’ cavalier attitude to customer security has been demonstrated time and again when they make outbound calls to customers and proceed to ask for passwords and other sensitive information
  • It would encourage organisations to start to take data protection seriously
  • It would do away with the loophole which allows all the enforcement organisations to abdicate responsibility for scam calls originating overseas
  • A mandatory penalty of imprisonment would prevent those responsible from buying their way out of loss of liberty
    Significant fines for every offence would start to undermine the business model which makes scam calls profitable.

Let’s face it, we are talking of 32 crimes every second of every day. If our politicians and legislature and police and regulators aren’t prepared to take this seriously, the DeliveryDemon wonders what the hell we pay them for.