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...

Dad diary - Hard times, sleeping patterns, Jobs creating jobs and pottering.

Hard times in hoover towers at the moment, juggling bills around is one of those thankless tasks that never gets any easier, especially in today's economic climate. The signs are, that there is no respite or light at the end of the tunnel for us.
Is this typical of what is happening around the UK?
I cannot say, but with all the measures and cuts we have been making here for the past 2-3 years or so, I can fully accept that those households which have not gone to such lengths as we have, will be struggling at the very least.

Of course, it's not just about the money.
It's been 5 years this summer, since our last holiday and that was a 3 day short break in Blackpool at an old friend's hotel.
The cost of everything is rocketing way in excess of what we can afford.
Cutting back on things is one thing, we are getting close to the stage where cutting things out all together will be the only option.
Even running this website, for my own reference, is at risk.
It pains me to see my family struggle. I do not like to see the personal results of financial pressure, the long working hours, no flexibility, etc.
This is not living, it's existing. We are running around just to stand still.
We do not go out for meals or nights out (cannot remember the last meal out we had), we drink only at Christmas, etc.
For a couple of years now we haven't been able to afford a theme park visit, attend a music festival of any kind, you get the picture.

No matter how frugal we have been/are, something has got to give.

Sleeping patterns of sprog2 are pretty regular. Apart from the occasional illness, we are getting 11-12 hours sleep right through the night no problem.
I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but delayed it as a good friend (Hey up Handles!) has been having a nightmare recently with her little girl's sleeping, I didn't want to rub it in, in anyway.
I am a little worried that something maybe wrong though. I don't recall sprog1 sleeping as good as this at this age? Could it be a sign of something else?
When she's asleep, hardly anything will wake her, noise has been used around her since day one, music, hoovering, people talking and laughing, etc, once she's nodded off she's out of it.
Anyone else's two year old sleep like a log?

I'd like to think this is down to my *luckily reading that professor's study into not establishing a routine with babies until they are approaching 3 years old. Letting them instead, sleep when needed, eat when hungry, etc. The logic (if there is any) being that parents spend an age battling to get a baby into a routine which studies show is almost pointless, as baby does not/will not understand until approaching the age of 3.
It was written by a bloke, which made me sceptical about it. With afternoon naps now just on the odd day, I can kind of see where the prof is coming from, time will tell I guess.
*Watch this, now I've wrote this I'll be getting tantrums, irregular sleep patterns and bricks bouncing off my swede for the next fortnight!

Jobs creating jobs, who'd have thought that a bit of plastering and moving a radiator would lead to the switching around of more than five beds between people who live hundreds of miles apart?
Everytime I get the urge to get cracking, it leads to more work for me.

Pottering season is almost upon us, once I get my head around the fact that the garden isn't a chore again, I'll be out there. I like pottering, I frugally picked up all my bulbs at the end of last season, still have half a bag full of seeds for flowers from last year and pallets that need chopping up for kindling which will be fun. The grapevine in the recycled greenhouse should be growing out via the tiny top window this year, it's well routed now, 3 years, so shouldn't cover me in spiders everytime I attempt to do anything in there.

Until next time, be frugal out there.

Facebook applications data mining your information.

Where is your facebook personal information going?
How is your facebook information used?
Which companies are using your facebook information?
Do you trust businesses that are farming your friend's and your personal information?
The short answer, nobody knows where or what is going on with your facebook profile information!

How a facebook application works:
Imagine your facebook page, which runs the any application, as an electronic picture frame, simply a border.
Your facebook application is written, coded, etc, just like this website.
With one exception. You can view the coding for this website. With a facebook application, game, picture changer, etc, you cannot.
The facebook application appears in your electronic picture frame, ie, with your facebook links all around it.
It is running on an entirely seperate website from facebook.
How do you view the coding for it so you know what's going on with information?
Unless you are a computer buff, you can't!

A new facebook friend started using a regular photo app and invited me to use it also.
I attempted to block the photo app from access to my data.
On the first screen giving me a chance to accept or decline the app, it listed all the information it required.

* Full access to my newsfeed, wall, email, photographs, videos and friends.
* Full access to my updates, fan pages and groups that I'd joined.
[Read: Everything I had placed on facebook]

I declined, another screen popped up.

"For the app to work, it will also have access to:"

* My friends list.
* My friend's newsfeeds.
* My friend's pictures and videos.
* My friend's email.
* My friend's groups, fan pages and "like" selections.
* MY friend's walls, profile information and settings.

This can include home and mobile phone numbers, email addresses, personal home addresses, family associations, shopping habits, products you "like"... you get the picture.

Is all this information really neccessary?
I think not.

More alarming, was the facebook application's "Terms and conditions" for anyone using the "service"!
Never, have I seen a more vague and contradictive set of terms and conditions and trust me, I've come across some dodgy ones in my time on this planet.

"We will not sell or pass on your information to any other company [*Notice nothing is said about your friend's information!]"
Two lines later....
"We reserve the right to pass on your information to any of our affiliate, corporate or parent companies"
So what about protection of all my friend's and my data?
"Your data will be stored in a secure way at all times"
A few lines further on...
"We cannot guarantee that your information will be always be stored in areas that are covered by data protection"
Hardly trustworthy is it.
So what about the actual information/pictures, etc.
This becomes their company's property and can be used as they so wish.
Hold on a mo, these are my pictures, my information, my email address, shouldn't they belong to me at all times facebook?

I tracked the facebook application back to the company website to try and learn about the company behind it.
A quick check on the website on which the facebook application is running reveals they have 9 other facebook applications running from the same domain name (website address) all different from the photo application that wanted to mine all this data.
Further digging on the owners of the company reveals they have received millions of dollars in loans to set up the company after they worked in a big corporation, so successful has their business been that they recently paid off their loans early and sold their business to a market leading corporation in their industry.
The industry the company is in, is called "Content Delivery Network" or CDN.

Companies in this field are in the business of providing streaming videos, for example, saving server space, faster speeds, etc.
I am presuming their facebook applications business is a sideline?
Hard to though when the company has been sold?

So when you have friends who play games, change photographs, etc, on facebook, using an application, they are already "sharing" your information, pics, etc.
They will have already accepted the terms and conditions of the company running the facebook app.
There are no safeguards, security procedures or legal bodies that can track what your information is being used for and protect it.
Consumer bodies have mentioned about official government offices having access to the information out there, I would suggest tightening up controls and getting a grip on what the private sector are doing in the first instance, BEFORE anymore of our information is shared.

One disturbing point, that will be looked at in the future posts, is facebook's role in all of this.
I use an email address as a secure log in name, to log on to my account with them. I do not expect, or have ever been asked, if this secure email address is/can be distributed to every company that owns and runs a facebook application!

Financial Ombudsman Service rule against PPI refund claim on the basis of psychic powers?

A PPI refund claim, which I raised with the financial ombudsman's service (FOS) has been declined, because the ombudsman, was not "persuaded that the customer would most likely have acted differently [read: refused to buy] had they been properly advised, informed and fully understood the position [of the PPI sale]"

This statement in itself, acknowledges that the ombudsman agreed with the claim, that the customer WAS NOT properly advised and informed so they could have fully understood the PPI product being sold.
How the FOS can rule against a PPI complaint because they couldn't prove that they wouldn't have bought the PPI had they been accurately informed, is a complete joke!

I wasn't aware that to find in favour of a customer reclaiming against a PPI product being mis sold, the customer must convince the FOS that, had they been given accurate information at the point of sale, they would not have bought the product?
Something that cannot be physically proven cannot be the basis of any sound judgement!
How can anyone prove that they would or wouldn't have done something, had something else been done differently?

I was under the impression that for a claim to be upheld in favour of a customer, the FOS would need to see proof that;
* The company gave the customer information [about the PPI product] that was clear, fair and not misleading, in order to put the customer in a position where they could make an informed choice about the insurance they were buying.
* In giving any advice or recommendation, that the company took adequate steps to ensure that the PPI product it recommended was suitable for the customer's needs.

If the customer can prove that any aspects of the selling process of the PPI were misleading, untrue, false, etc, or that information given about the benefits of the PPI were not as the company said they were, then surely this is ample grounds for upholding the claim and finding in favour of the customer getting a refund?
At the end of the Ombudsman's letter they acknowledge that the customer was not properly advised, therefore mislead.

Of course the real reason for refusing the complaint here is related to "middle man" company, that acts as a filter to protect the individual business from Financial services authority audit and complaints to the ombudsman.

Heres how it works: Individual business (ie. car dealership the customer buys from) - Middle man company (which receives fees from individual business for training staff in updates of FSA policies, complaint prevention,etc. and pays fees to the FSA) - financial ombudsman service (Which have ombudsmen put in place by the fee receiving FSA, the same FSA that "advises" the middle man company on policy for fees).

- Customer complains to the dealership and gets fobbed off.
- Complaint is handed over to middle man company. After "extensive review" *Ever heard a company ruling against it's own training service for which it is getting paid? No, me neither!
- Complaint is refused and customer given option to go to FOS.
- FOS looks at complaint, but never contacts the dealership in any of it's investigations, instead contacts the middle man company.
- FOS agrees with customer that they were mislead in sales process, that cancellation fees existed for PPI but customer was told they were not.
- FOS then refuses the complaint, on the grounds that they were not convinced that the customer wouldn't have bought the PPI had they known the cancellation fees existed - this is despite evidence given and witnesses to the sale backing up the complaint, that the PPI was only signed for on the premise that no cancellation fees existed!

Where the middle man company comes into it, is that the financial ombudsman service will not rule against a middle man company, as they are designated training companies of the FSA!
To rule against the middle man company would then force the FSA to stop the work of the middle man company auditing individual businesses for them, and action would have to be taken against them, which would damage their financial connection.
If the middle man company are suspended/awarded against for any reason, it would cut funding to the FSA.
How many companies do you know, that will cut their own funding by choice? *I know of none!

A clear conflict of interest exists, which the FOS and the FSA both deny.

So how about the FSA and the FOS tell us how many times they have ruled against one of these middle man companies? (There are just over 600 middle man companies, each one can have thousands of individual businesses paying them fees)
They refused.
Freedom of Information act will force them to reveal?
The act doesn't apply to the FSA or the FOS.
What about just the name of any other middle man company so they can be checked?
They refused.

This is why a complaint against a middle man company must satisfy the financial ombudsman of something that has nor will, ever happen.
I could understand the ombudsman ruling against the complaint because they were not convinced that anything misleading took place, but as they admitted in writing, they were satisfied that this was the case.
So why is it not enough to prove your case with facts, witnesses, etc?

There were other major points regarding being mislead at the point of sale, the ombudsman did their "extensive" review of the case then forgot to mention a single one of them in their refusal letter. When asked why there was no mention of them, they said, "No comment!"

If the psychic powers of the ombudsman rule that in a parallel universe, somewhere in the future, you would have bought the PPI policy had you known you were being mislead anyway, then you have no chance of winning your complaint.

Eon misleading customers on "6% price cut" claims

Heard the one about Eon and it's "6% price cut for electricity"?
If you are with Eon I would contact them and check the facts, as I did, and with electricity price and standing charge cuts combined, are not as Eon's press office have claimed!

After recent press announcements that Eon were "cutting price of electricity by 6%" I contacted Eon via their twitter feed ( to ask if they would also be cutting their standard charge, which had increased by 19% at the same time as their recent price increases of 19%.
I was assured that their standing charges were being cut also, in my area, once the exact details were available they would come back to me.

Today Eon came back to me.
Quoting reduction in electricity price per kWh and reduction in standing charge in pence per day.
Put these reductions into percentages and it's easy to see why Eon chose to present the reductions in pence per day and pence per kWh - "6% cut" claims are false!

FACT - Our electricity with Eon has fallen by only 5.3%
FACT - Our standing charge has fallen by just 0.6%

Via Eon's twitter feed today, the emphasis is on percentages in the press, stated by Eon, as being "an average" percentage.

Let's provide some evidence of these "average of 6% cut" claims from Eon;

* "Energy company E.On is to cut its standard electricity prices by 6%, from Monday 27 February." (16-1-2012) source: - No mention of an average percentage cut on the BBC website.

* "E.ON announces 6% cut in electricity prices
 E.ON has today (MON 16 JAN) announced a 6% decrease in its standard electricity prices" (16-1-2012) source: - No mention of an average percentage cut on Eon's own website.

* "We've announced a cut in our electricty price of 6%" (16-1-2012) source: Eon's official twitter feed post which can be found at - no mention of an average percentage cut there.

* "Eon to cut electricity prices - Standard electricity tariff will drop by 6%" (16-1-2012) source: - no mention of an average percentage cut there either.

The same results from a number of other high profile media websites:
- Guardian
- telegraph
- sky
You get the picture.

Eon have been stating the following;
"We have announced a 6% decrease in our standard electricity prices. The decrease, which equates to £31 off the average annual bill, will take effect from Monday 27th February 2012"
The £31 off the average bill claims give no indication whatsoever that they were arrived at by an average percentage reduction in their electricity prices - instead pointing to the figure of £31 being "Based on an Ofgem average of 3,300 kWh per annum paying by fixed monthly Direct Debit" source:

Now to you and me, a 6% reduction in electricity prices claim should be exactly that. Eon's price of electricity should fall by 6%, so why is ours only falling by 5.3%?

Now for the standing charge "cut"
Our standing charge costs our home £99.60 per year - whether we spend one penny piece on electricity or not - it is being "cut" by a staggering 0.6%
This equates to *Brace yourself... a whopping 1.15p per week!
Or to put it another way, a saving of 5p per calendar month!

Here are some of the twitter questions and answers from todays exchanges (Mine in bold):
@EONhelp Thanks for the #standingcharge info, however, if you cut 6% from 27.29p per day [standing charge], it should be 25.65p not 27.13p per day?
- @frugal_ways 6% is average across all tariffs, regions & levels of usage. Some will be more, some less. Your kWh price down 5.3%
@EONhelp C'mon, even you have to admit that #eon's standing charge "cut" of just 0.6% for #Lancashire is laughable after a 19% rise!

@EONhelp standing charge now £99.60 a year - after 6% "cut" it will be £99.02 a year a "saving" of 58p per year or just 1.1p per week #poor
- No reply
No reply because it is not being cut by 6%?

@EONhelp So Lancashire's kWh price down 5.3% which means other areas get a bigger than 6% (average) cut, name them please?
* If my cut is below average, by definition there must be some areas that will have their prices cut by more than the stated 6%
- @frugal_ways % cut depends on many things. Tariff, E7 or 1 rate, usage etc. Varies within regions as well as between regions

@EONhelp "% cut depends on usage" - don't follow that at all? What about the standing charge "cut" - 1.1p per week is pathetic do you agree?
- @frugal_ways Cut in press is average based on combo of things. Use one. Your SC cut less than some but SC still cheaper than most

So no other area given which receives a bigger percentage cut than 6%
No answer to what Eon mean by "percentage cut depends on usage"
How does this stack up with the press releases and marketing about "6% cut in Eon's electricity price"?
Even on official Eon web pages, there is no mention of the "% cut depends on many things. Tariff, E7 or 1 rate, usage etc"

The reason why there is no mention or disclaimer, is because Eon have been caught out with their proverbial pants down.
Putting out a statement saying they have "cut electricity prices by 6%" is misleading. The BBC website even includes a diagram listing "-6%" under Eon's electricity price column.

If you are an Eon customer, get in touch with them and find out what your real percentage "cut" is. I'd wager that there's not many in the country that will see their electricity price per kWh fall by exactly the 6% they are claiming!

Eon want to "reset" their relations with their customers, to win back their trust - this misleading behaviour is one of the main reasons customers do not trust Eon in the first place!

Straight from Eon themselves this morning;

6% is average cut. Some will have more/some less/some exactly 6%.

I have asked;
My area will only get a 5.3% cut, name an area that will get a cut greater than 6%?
- No answer
What do you mean by "% cut will depend on usage"? - (after this twitter reply " % cut depends on many things. Tariff, E7 or 1 rate, usage etc. Varies within regions as well as between regions ")
- No answer

I have posted them a link to this post, they have no comment to make, nothing to say.
I wonder why that is?
Eon's latest top down campaign, is to "reset" relations with their customers to regain "trust" - yet Eon tell their customers that "we are cutting our standard electricity price by 6%" when in fact, they are not.