Are Consumers Association Which? manipulating their own conversations and campaigns?

The editorial team over at Which? conversation think that it is appropriate and proper, to mislead individual posters and readers on their "conversations" web boards.
Which? are happy to have a post appear on their web boards when it is sent from and then viewed by a logged in user, while at the same time, hide it from the view of all users whom are not signed up members and also those that are logged in members, as well as those subscribing to email updates of the particular thread (in other words, everyone elses view).

It must be stuck in their spam filter?
A few weeks ago, a post of mine on a Which? conversation was said to be stuck in their spam filter. The post was sent and immediately disappeared from my view and everyone elses. After repeating the post, again it simply did not show to anyone, my own account included.

On this occasion, my post can be seen, voted upon, etc, by myself. When I visit the "conversation" not logged into the website, (ie, as unregistered user) my post is not shown.
When friends have logged in with their accounts, again, my post is not shown.
The only time I can see the post is when I am logged in under my account.

The technique being used by Which? editorial staff, misleads me to believe that my post is part of the "conversation" and open to voting, questioning, etc.
Of course this is false - as no other visitor to the website can see it, they don't even know it exists!

Perhaps your post had been "reported" to the website moderators and held in a queue, then not picked up on?
A couple of days later I was "warned" by the editorial team on a different "conversation" that my posts may have to be deleted if they were "harassing" other people responding to the topic.

I replied asking about how it could be deemed "harassment" when in fact I was asking questions requested by Which?'s own staff?
Within seconds of posting my reply it was marked as "disagreed with" [perhaps a post cannot be removed once it's been voted upon? this argument is for another time]
I logged out, cleared cookies, visited the conversation again, it was displayed no problem.

This shows that my posts were not automatically being held back, as a result of my other post being "reported" to the Which? moderators.

However, later that evening I was reading online as I do, when I came across an article which was relevant to the same "conversation" - I posted a link and a comment. I logged out, cleared cookies and revisited the "conversation" - my post, that was displayed fine when I was logged in and viewing it, was not there.
Friends logged in and checked, they too could not see the post.
This proves that my Which? account had restrictions placed upon it by their editorial staff and my post hidden from view to everyone. I was not told of this, I was given no explanation, etc.
The following morning, the post suddenly appeared on the "conversation" viewable by everyone.

It has been more than 2 days now since my comment on the "conversation" in question, nobody else has posted a comment since my comment went missing from anyone's view. I've had no messages about it, no answers to the questions I asked in it, nothing, not a peep from Which?

The post/comment itself was about how I could not support the Which? campaign "fixed means fixed" that is being promoted all over the media and questioned Which?'s actions on the issue in only submitting a formal complaint, timings, failing to post relevant details to worried people posting on the Three "conversations," how their official complaint had delayed the process with OFCOM, why information on discussions between Three and Which? were being kept confidential, etc. (I shall post my comment - that Which? do not want anyone to see - on here shortly)

Further proof comes when I "reported" a comment to test the procedure. The comment remained displayed to everyone, when I was logged in and when I wasn't logged in. My friends could also see the comment I reported when they logged in.
This shows that "reported" comments are not automatically removed from the Which? conversation boards, they have to be manually removed by the editorial staff, which also proves that they are not automatically held in any queing system, where it could be said that restoring the comment to being visible to all "was not picked up on"

It's normal to delete forum posts that do not meet the website's guidelines
When logged in, my post is still there, can still be seen on the "conversation" as normal along with other people's comments.

The post has not been deleted, Which? are happy for me to be given the impression that my post is there for all to see, when only I can see it when logged in. This is misleading.
Which? have not contacted me to say it breaches any guidelines.

It's just a website...
Normally I would agree, but this is the Consumers Association trading as Which? Only four consumer bodies have the power to issue "Super complaints" in England, Which? is one of these and as such must meet certain criteria set down by government/legislation.

* Which? regularly lobby MPs on behalf of all consumers - regardless of whether their viewpoint agrees with Which?
* Which? advise MPs of all parties on many areas of business on behalf of consumers.
* Which? must remain independent, my post questioned this and provided a breakdown of what has happened during the course of the Which? conversations with Three on their price rises issue, the advice Which? have given to people and asked questions of Which? - to which they have responded by misleading myself giving the impression I was involved in their "conversation" when in fact I am excluded from it.

To sum up...
Which? conversation editorial staff should be answering questions posted to their website, by acting in the way they have chosen, suggests that my reasons for not supporting their "fixed means fixed" campaign may be correct.

IF my opposition is accurate, then this raises serious questions about the integrity of Which?

I was of the impression that being the consumers association, Which? were open to views from all sides on any given question that THEY ask and promote, by hiding my post to all but my logged in account, they have shown that Which? "conversations" and "campaigns" cannot be trusted to be accurate.

How many more Which? members have posted comments that have been hidden from view in this way?

Satellite system care - 0844 8000 405 - BEWARE!

Beware of Satellite system care ltd (SSC) cold calling homes with Sky tv equipment, trying a very clever sales technique, to persuade you to change over your sky insurance to their own insurance cover.

A very distraught elderly neighbour came to me today, distraught that this "company" had cold called her.
They insinuated that they worked alongside Sky TV and were able to offer her a lower price per month for her equipment insurance.
SSC then claimed this would include "6 months free insurance cover"

The satellite System care sales person then gained her confidence by asking her which bank she was with, then quoted the first four digits of her bank card number.
My neighbour was then asked for the remainder of her long card number and the 3 digit security number on the back of her card, to "set up the direct debit"
She was given a new number to call and told her new documents would arrive in the post within the week.

Nothing wrong there then?

24 hours later, my neighbour went to her bank to withdraw some money out, to find that her account was almost empty!
After enquiring if payments had gone in, she found that she had no money because Satellite system care ltd had taken £170 from her account!
As a direct result of being misled, my elderly neighbour will now be billed for bank charges totalling over £100 as well.

* Satellite System Care Ltd are nothing to do with Sky TV, Sky TV have never heard of them.
SSC sales staff, when questioned, deny that they say anything about having something to do with Sky TV.
They admit that their information comes from a data marketing company - the name of which they refused to give me (which is illegal) - which pass on details of customers with official Sky equipment.

* Satellite system care sales staff promise they can offer a lower monthly price of insurance because the price of insurance with Sky TV is fixed.
At no point in the sales pitch/call did they inform my neighbour that the price was £170 for a three year policy. There was no mention of this being paid in full, instead, a monthly amount was quoted, lower than that of the official Sky TV insurance price.

* Satellite system care sales staff offer "6 months free equipment insurance"
What SSC staff don't tell customers is that this "6 months free" is at no point is it included within their "three year cover" policy!
Sales staff have admitted that this "6 months free" is additional at the end of a three year policy.
When I asked their sales staff, "At what point during the three year period of insurance cover is there 6 months free cover?" SSC sales staff replied, "None, there isn't a 6 months free period within the three year cover!"

* Satellite system care sales staff/cold callers, gain trust by finding out which bank their sales target is with, then quote them the first four digits of their card number.
Each bank has the same first four digits on all current account "long card numbers" - their sales office admitted they have a list at the side of them, of each bank's first four digits included on current account long card numbers!
This backs up their sales pitch, that they are in some way working with the official Sky TV. Again their sales staff deny this is the case when I questioned them on it.

* Satellite system care sales staff asked for the three digit security number on the back of the card.
This is not required to set up a direct debit with any bank!
When I asked why them why they were setting up a direct debit, when they were taking the full three year price out of her account, they replied, "You are just asking awkward questions now!"
I pushed this further, "When you send out the insurance paperwork, why do you not include direct debit guarantee information?" - No reply.

The old addage should apply, regardless of your age, if you are cold called, DO NOT enter into any conversation with them, simply put the phone down on them.
Cold callers on your doorstep or via the telephone cannot be trusted!

My neighbour has reported this to their bank and have been told that it's now being dealt with by the bank's fraud department with an eventual full refund in the coming weeks.
This will not help my neighbour in the short term, no money for food and bank charges to be fought against because of direct debits coming out this week. They have also had to have all their cards changed and issued with new numbers.

I asked Satellite system care's sales staff, "Why would my neighbour agree to paying out £170 for three years cover, when that is the only money they had in their account for the next two weeks?" SSC sales staff just denied they had misled anyone.

SSC sales staff say that their customer service can issue a cheque for a full refund as well as pay to cover bank charges.
I'm sure they could, but I doubt it.
I quoted posts from the "Who calls me" website, where posters claim to have been left waiting for refund cheques for months in some case and have also been miss sold this insurance, SSC sales staff had no answer to their claims.

Do yourself a favour if satellite system care ring you up, put the phone down on them, give them a wide berth!

Not only is bad enough that Satellite System Care (SSC) are misleading and making false representations about "monthly" protection payments, then taking 3 years worth out of bank accounts in one lump sum without any notification, but to add insult to injury, Natwest are now complicit in their fobbing off by their "fraud investigation team" 

After being assured that this company was "under investigation" by the Natwest fraud team, passing details on to them would allow a short investigation to take place, so that my elderly neighbour could have her money refunded back into her account.
Four phone calls over two weeks were made, to attempt to get a form sent out from Natwest to fill out so they could look at it.
When it finally landed, it was swiftly filled in and sent back recorded delivery.
My elderly neighbour has just phoned me, absolutely distraught!

Natwest have told her she cannot have her money back as she gave card details to the company.
It's fine for SSC to mislead on cold calls, it's fine to then state they would take a monthly payment, it's fine for SSC to then remove 3 years worth of monthly payments from her account without any notification what-so-ever.

The company SSC obviously know that this is a standard response from banks as they themselves will not refund neither now, will Natwest, even though they have already instructed my neighbour that this company is being investigated by them, for fraud and given assurances she would be refunded under the visa chargeback system.

Another shining example of obligations being dumped in a shameless attempt to save Natwest money.
Other options still open to us are a small claims court case or a financial ombudsman complaint - which would take anything up to 2 years.

Satellite System Care Ltd do not appear on the Financial Services Authority register, as they must do by law, before they can sell insurance products. This also applies to their director, which I can find no trace of.
Their website has now mysteriously vanished... AVOID!


See how we won my friend's money back:


Original documents only?

With an ever widening range of new technologies and the perceived "benefits" of being able to use them, why are we constantly faced with companies and government bodies demanding "original documents only?"
We are sold technology en-masse yet cannot escape that when we - the people - want to use it to make our lives a little bit easier, it remains unacceptable and original documents must be used.
What is the point of us all paying for this?

I can send an email anywhere in the world within seconds (at a line and service monthly cost).
I can scan a document/certificate for the price of a scanner and attach it to an email or post to a designated website (again at a cost to me for the technology).
I can send a fax from home of the document/certificate to any designated number around the world (using a fax/scanner).

When I have to prove who I am to a company or government department, only the original documents are accepted.
This costs me in special recorded delivery payments, takes days before they are returned, with me running the risk of whether or not my documents are lost or stolen.
Of course, these same companies/government depts claim it is to prevent fraud, but do nothing when any form of new helpful technology is brought out and sold to us, proclaiming it will save us all time and because of this, money.

Ridiculous in this day and age that I continue to have to pay out over inflated prices to send original documents through the post, when the technology to send pictures, emails, faxes of said documents is sitting in my living room, doing nothing and never getting used.

Rip off Britain - Asda misleading on sale price - Hampton principles

When will trading standards get a grip of asda misleading advertisements on price?
When will the "Hampton principles" (read: "needs of the business") approach to regulation and enforcement be dropped?
Here is a shining example of how the Hampton principles effect us all and are the cause of "Rip off Britain."

Dairylea triangles (16 pack) at asda, has been up and down in price since the week before Christmas.

£1.79 in week of 10th December 2011
UP in price to £1.88 in the week of 18th December 2011 (busy Christmas week don't forget!)
UP again to £2.18 in the week of 25th January 2012 (Remember the big "saving you money everyday" promotions/advertising after Christmas?) a price dairylea triangles (16 pack) have never been before.

I questioned asda about how genuine this offer was and why had the product increased to a record high for it, not surprisingly, asda did not reply to any of my questions or comments about it.

Within 10 days (once the promotion/advertising campaign had finished?) asda reduced the price to £1 and kept it at that price for around four weeks, before raising the price again to £1.88 (UP 88p, in the run up to the Easter holidays).
Since in the week of 15th March 2012, the price has been held at £1.88 during a busy period/customer holidays.

Not content with this yoyo effect pricing, increasing (it seems to me) when a promotion or advertising campaign is running, then being "reduced" for a while before returning to a higher price when the next promotion/campaign starts, asda have once again displayed scant regard for the customers they are telling us they "are working hard to save money" for.

On Thursday before the Easter weekend (I'm told) asda started running adverts on national television about a range of products being "just £1" - one of these products was clear to see, Dairylea triangles (16 pack).
On Easter Saturday, the better half told me of the £1 advertised price, which was £1.88 in store, so I checked online, there too, asda selling price was also £1.88
I put it down to her being mistaken.

Today, as of 1am wednesday morning (whilst writing this post), after Easter, a full 6 days of national TV advertising of this £1 "sale" of products, including Dairylea triangles, I spotted the advertisement for myself. There were Dairylea triangles - 16 packs - clearly being shown next to a big red £1 sign, with a voice over telling us about £1 prices and claiming how asda save us money everyday.
The price on asda's website was £1.88 - this was only adjusted later on Wednesday morning (today).
Has the price been corrected in stores?

Advertising a product for a false price to a large audience, then removing it without notice or correction is a practice known as "bait advertising" and is against the law.

Back in January 2012, I pulled asda via twitter, regarding their advertised blog/twitter posts after asda stated "warburton's bread was reduced to £1.15" when in fact asda had increased the price from £1.30 to £1.35
You can read the full post and comments here:
Trading standards are doing nothing about supermarkets
It took them almost two days to even acknowledge they had blogged about it, then without warning, correction or apology to their customers, they simply deleted it from the blog.
It is a requirement of the law to notify customers of an error or correction in price quoted, after advertising it to an audience, significant in number.

I reported it, but asda kept their "compliant" status with trading standards, and kept all the business benefits this brings with it. No inspections without good reason, notification of an inspection in areas across the country, only with the permission of the primary authority (the trading standards dept in the area of asda head office), presenting less data, in effect head office regulation/enforcement.

This is due to the "Hampton principles" of regulation, that must consider "the needs of the business" before any proposed action can be taken against a business. If it will be detrimental, it cannot be enforced.
The only way around this for trading standards, is with rogue traders which continually flout the laws and do not comply with regulation/enforcement.
Under the Hampton principles, it is almost impossible for a company, let alone a huge business like asda, to lose their "compliant status" with regulators/enforcement bodies.
Enforcement bodies also have to take into account, how much a customer has lost out/suffered detriment.
When buying a car for example, this practice is relevant, it could run into hundreds if not thousands of pounds per customer.
What the Hampton principles make no account of, is the damage being done to customers who would only lose out by a few pence.

This is why asda (and others) can get away with this and escape punishment, avoiding losing their compliant status with regulators/enforcement bodies. The complaint isn't significant enough to warrant losing their status, when this happens alongside no inspections without good reason regulation, regulation fails the customer. How many product lines does this happen with?

In the case of asda and dairylea triangles (16 packs) - only looking at an individual case by trading standards, does not show the full picture (a similar position exists with the energy ombudsman only looking at individual complaints).

Why are trading standards/regulators not looking at the following?
- How many packs have asda sold of dairylea triangles (16s) over the past week whilst this advertisement has been running on television?
Asda have more than 530 stores in the UK - if every store has sold just 10 packs during this week (think on: some stores will be much bigger and sell many more over Easter holidays) the figures are staggering!

530 stores times 10 packs = 5300 packs of dairylea triangles (16s)
Priced at £1.88 when they are being advertised at just £1 = an extra 88p per pack sold for asda.

5300 packs times 88p = an extra £4,664 in asda's coffers contrary to asda's advertising.

This is just one product line out of how many thousands that asda stock?
If this example were repeated over just 10 product lines, asda would bag an extra £46,640 over what they were advertising!
If this example were repeated over just 54 product lines, asda would bag a jaw dropping, more than a quarter of a MILLION pounds extra from their customer's pockets!
How many product lines do asda stores stock?

Asda's offer is on national television, but not on their website under normal pricing for 6 days, nor is it on their website under their "sales" section (it still isn't today) and was not available in their stores across the UK until 6 days after the ads were run, if they have corrected it?
Will asda be refunding all those 88p gains from sales of dairylea, to customers who bought in their stores? Bought via online orders?

If the Chancellor is "shocked" by tax avoidance by the super rich, he should check out exactly how his continuing with failed "advisory style regulation" (Hampton principles) which failed the banking sector so spectacularly and used by corporate businesses to get around the law, is hitting every family/household on a weekly basis, just by shopping for food!

The road to "Rip off britain" - The Hampton principles

What are the "hampton principles?"
Hampton principles come from the Hampton report, commissioned by the government in 2004, completed and presented in March 2005.
They were a set of rules for mainly five regulators and local council enforcement bodies, like trading standards, etc.
The then government were so impressed, they accepted all the recommendations in the reports findings and implemented them across the board, in all areas of regulation and enforcement. They became statute law in 2008, but by then they were already in place across all areas of regulation.
The idea was to "reduce administrative burdens on business caused by regulations"

The backbone of "Rip off Britain" is the implementation of "risk based assessment," regulation and enforcement.

A business complies with trading standards or it's industry regulator, in return for this "compliance" it receives less audits, no inspections, self provision of information to the authorities and less requirement of it, reliance on the head office policy for bigger businesses, in effect a green light, etc.
Under the Hampton principles, the needs and costs of the business must be considered before the action is taken - if it would increase expense/administrative burden on the business or industry, under law it cannot be enforced.

Problems with "Risk based assessment"
* Philip Hampton who wrote the report, is a corporate businessman. Consultation for his report was, we are told, wide and far reaching. The problem is, the consultation was almost entirely made up of big businesses, trade associations, regulators and enforcement bodies. The number of actual consumers consulted, you can count on one hand. The report was written by business for the benefit of business.
From the government's report, "Hampton: From enforcement to compliance";
- The word "business" is quoted 232 times.
- The word "consumer" is quoted just 30 times.
- "Putting the consumer/customer first" is mentioned just once! (On page 26 if you want to check)

* Once a business is seen as "compliant" with its regulator and enforcement bodies, and the benefits this brings for them, it is almost impossible to lose this status. Thousands of identical complaints, a "super" complaint by a consumer body or a national outcry from the media, is the only instances that seem to be a reason for enforcement bodies such as the OFT or trading standards (for example) to register a complaint against their name. It takes several of these registered complaints before the business' even has chance of flagging up, with the enforcement body, that they maybe flouting the laws and at risk of losing their "compliant" status. This is made worse still, as if the business have "worked closely with [insert enforcement body here]" they are more inclined to raise issues during a meeting with the business top brass rather than inspections. As you will see from examples given later, this is neither use nor ornament. As a way of regulating it is non existant!

* If any action by the regulator/enforcement body, is to be taken against a corporate or business, it must pass the "needs of the business" test. If the action would cause detriment to the business, ie, cost it more money, then it cannot be enforced.
This could be because the business has to prepare answers for any enforcement body, costing it more in bureaucracy and staff, it could result in requiring retraining staff, again at more cost to the business.
Under "risk based assessment" law for regulators and enforcement bodies, action of this kind by those "watching out for the consumer" are, oddly, not permitted to act!

* "No inspections" - How exactly does a regulator/enforcement body carry out their work without inspecting businesses?

* "Risk based assessment" allows trading standards (for example) to focus resources on rogue traders - admirable as that maybe, it doesn't help the issue of enforcement of the law does it?
Rogue traders are a minority of businesses and one man bands, what about the damage done by corporate and big businesses?
Only today, the OFT removed the credit license of Yes loans, splashed all over the news. Good?
Look at the background of the case... you'll see the regulation (or lack of) was not so good! According to the BBC website, Yes loans have been "under investigation" since 2009 - customers that were charged up front fees for setting up a loan have taken months to get them back, it was down to the individual to fight their corner. What were the FSA doing for almost 3 years?

Risk based assessment regulation and enforcement in action, or the lack of regulation/enforcement leaving ordinary people to fight for themselves? Which ever way it's marketed to the public, the Hampton principles or "risk based assessment" in regulation urgently needs abolishing, not my words, but the words of top brass in the world of business.

Our next post will show how this principle effects every household in the country...