Monday, 23 January 2017

ADR (Otello) from the other side (EE)

Having dealt with Otello, or whatever they are called now, from the ISP side, and it ending very badly with them breaching their own terms and basically screwing us, I have now seen ADR with them from the customer side.

It is not me personally but my son, who had mobile service with EE. He had a SIM for him and his girlfriend and ceased the later, and paid all on Direct Debit. He is young, and he does not pay attention, which is fair enough - Direct Debit is perfect for him.

However, after a couple of years when he should have only been paying one mobile contract he finally clocked that he was paying two - a couple of weeks out of phase, both similar amounts. Direct Debits a couple of weeks out of phase. And no, surprisingly, not the SIM for his girlfriend but a third SIM that started when he first got a contract.

The problem is, every time he saw a bill or DD, it looked a reasonable amount, and it did not click it was twice a month not once a month. He is known for not even opening post. I remember when I was young and I don't hold it against him. I think he is learning - the world is there to screw you if you let it!

So he got on to EE who decided to handle it via their Fraud department, took ages, did not tell him anything, and got nowhere. I serious doubt any fraud. I suspect a simple cock up by EE sales droids. Eventually he got around to complaining again, and again they did the same. This was getting silly, so I suggested ADR.

Now, EE have no evidence that he asked for an extra SIM. They have no proof of delivery. They have no record of the SIM ever being used in a phone or making or receiving any calls. Nothing to say he has a contract with them apart from the fact he has paid (by Direct Debit).

ADR conclusion - even though EE have no evidence of any contract? They decide in EE's favour?!?! They say it is odd he did not notice earlier or claw back the Direct Debits.

I suggested he write back and say that if "clawing back the Direct Debits" would swing the case in his favour, he can do that, for all payments right now if they like. (DD rules allow that if no physical signed DD mandate). He did not write that, and sort of gave up.

If he did not have to worry over credit rating then simply clawing back all DDs would force EE's hand and they would have to take him to court with no evidence. He has to worry about credit ratings. A sad sate of affairs really for all of us.

Anyway, ADR is clearly a waste of space, so next steps:

  1. Data Protection Act Subject Access Request to EE for all evidence of any contracts formed with him (call recording, web logs, signed contract) or any usage of the SIM or even proof of delivery.
  2. Assuming none exist, letter before action for county court.

At the end of the day if they cannot prove a contract exists, even by implicit "use of the service provided" I think they are going to lose. Well worth a try and trains him on the ways of DPA and county courts, and not a lot to lose in trying.

I'll try and post an update once we make progress. This is around £1000 so worth his time, even if he loses, to learn the processes.

22 comments:

  1. An important lesson in staying on top of your own affairs here for him. If he's old enough to enter contracts, he's old enough to open his post and behave like any adult should.

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  2. If the court route bears fruit (which it sounds like it will), could you then use that as evidence to the credit referencing agency to have a correction made? I think the correction might require agreement by the organisation in question, but perhaps they will agree at that point since a they will have either settled out of court or had a judgement made against them?

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    1. Why would he need any correction made to his credit report? There's no suggestion that he owes any money to EE, rather vice versa. Only if he were to claw back the Direct Debits already made would that possibility enter the equation but he chose not/was afraid to go down that route.

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    2. Quite, that is why the DD claw back is not (yet) being done.

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  3. What's the bet that, should he win in court, the ADR process won't even be aware of the event, much less take it into account?

    Systems like this are useless without negative feedback. Whoever thought up the system for appeals courts, where a vacated judgement was sent back to the lower court that initially issued it, was very much on the ball, even though they'd probably never heard the words 'control theory'.

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  4. I have no faith in ADR - I have used it twice - Once I was overcharged and Bulldog broadband (years ago!) and they even lost my business telephone number - but, they ruled in their favor...

    Second time, I had a BT deal for free installation - and I was charged £120... complained and nothing!

    I sent in both cases clear documentation and their "ruling" mentioned my documentation but basically ignored it... If I had more time, I would have taken it further... I'll see if I can dig anything out - it will make you laugh.

    I really think there are backhanders or it only works for the big guys...

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  5. The credit rating thing is a real problem - I've had this with reverse billed SMS messages on Orange on several occasions. Orange's response to "I'm not paying the bill because its clearly fraudulent" was that if I didn't pay they would trash my credit rating. The amount of money involved was about £10-20 so not worth the bother for me and I ended up paying up. But a few thousand people all £20 out of pocket is going to make them money.

    Similar problems with nPower a couple of years ago for considerably more money - there were a whole stream of cockups on their part, I cancelled the direct debit (with their agreement) while they corrected the bills. Unfortunately the corrections were also wrong, and the corrections to the corrections were wrong, etc. and they refused to take any responsibility, continually saying that their billing errors were my fault. Their complaints department refused to even acknowledge the complaint and since I wasn't paying the (incorrect!) bills and they had no record of a complaint (since they kept ignoring me) they started making threats of trashing my credit record and sending debt collectors. Luckily the regulator stepped in and ordered them to stop arsing about and pay me compensation. Later on, completely out of the blue I received a second compensation cheque in the post because the billing errors (which they had claimed were my fault) apparently affected most of their customers and the regulator had demanded that they send out compensation to everyone affected.

    I really don't like the way that consumers are at the mercy of big companies being able to bugger up their credit rating without any kind of due process.

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    1. Yes, companies can really screw with your life over paltry sums, and are very slow to correct the mistakes they make. In some ways it makes you wonder if they should not have to take you to court before entering a default on a credit file, or perhaps take you to court within X time or remove it, as right now it's a 6 year sentence which could cost you thousands in additional interest etc on other products and/or stop you getting a house.

      I had an issue with Nationwide reporting a loan application as fraudulent to a fraud prevention agency because I used the t/a name of my employer (as shown on my payslips) on the application when previously I had used the legal name of the Ltd company.

      It took me 18 months and various Subject Access Requests to resolve, and in that time I had car insurance declined, and all sorts of other financial issues. Nationwide obviously didn't care that much as in the intervening time they gave me a mortgage.

      I still had to supply "evidence" of the link between the names of my (by then former) employer before they would remove it. Thankfully they had bid for govt contracts under the t/a name and I was able to link them to FoI requests that associated them.

      In the first year alone it cost me over £300 in additional premiums for car insurance that I will never get back.

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    2. Actually, for bad credit to only be based on court decisions is a really good idea, IMHO. No reason not to get judgements if you have a case, and not reason for not having such a judgement to not count.

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    3. I think the limiting factor is court capacity, if everyone started getting judgements for debts we'd need lots more judges, or for them to work longer hours than they seemed to when I was on jury duty (Turn up at 1000, away by 1500 most days with 1hr for lunch...)

      TV licenses supposedly account for 1 in 10 UK court cases at 180k a year ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/10256679/TV-licence-offences-account-for-one-in-ten-UK-court-cases.html ) which says the capacity is only around 1.8million cases a year.

      Broadband complaints alone are ~105k a year at 300 a day ( http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2016/07/ee-talktalk-bt-continue-collect-consumer-complaints.html ) although I guess many of these would not lead to credit data being produced, but this is just the complaints to Ofcom, for one industry.

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    4. IMHO if courts need to be improved then do that. Many have a "one hour arbitration call" in any case to resolve before hand. That has to be less work than ADR. We don't need "A" DR we just need one system of DR that has power to rule either way and fair costs.

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  6. My father-in-law was in a similar situation, I went to ADR on his behalf. He'd been sold BT Sport via a cold call and had understood it to be free. When he cancelled his contract BT cancelled his phone and broadband and started charging him for the sport. It took us seven months to notice and ADR decided that it was his responsibility to check his bills. Strangely though ADR seemed to want to find a compromise so asked BT to pay him 1/3 of the money for some minor technicality. I still think it was unfair of BT to sell him the sport channel via a cold call but not explain to him that they'd start charging him for it when he cancelled his other contracts, or just cancel it automatically, my father-in-law doesn't understand that they are separate things.

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  7. Just for an opposing viewpoint...

    Had someone done this with AA, and somehow had two broadband accounts, and it could be shown that one had zero usage for a year, so a mistake has been made, whether yours or the customers, would you refund all the charges? Obviously, you would have supplier costs from all this, but whether or not you are vertically integrated should not impact the customer really.

    I guess an AA Sip2Sim would be a better example. I have a feeling the starting position from AA would be (probably quite rightly) that I must have ordered 2 by accident and that I should have said something prior to 1 year passing. If I did a DD indemnity claim, you would probably take me to court!

    I might be totally wrong about how AA would handle it, and don't disagree that ADR is next to pointless (as is Ofcom and even the FSA, whose "verdicts" make no sense and seem to be based on a whim rather than law), but I'm not sure I'm against what EE have done here.

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    1. Basically, if we had made a mistake, or could not prove we had not, we would, of course, refund. We are careful with ordering and order confirmations and logs of such to know a customer really did order. If someone ordered two services over the phone we'd have the call recordings, and would review them.

      Even if we could prove the customer made the mistake, not us, we usually work on trying to not make a profit from a mistake and offering a credit of some of the cost.

      If we had proof the customer did place the order and we confirmed it, and so on, we would want to at least cover our costs, obviously.

      But definitely, if we had made a mistake, we take the hit on that.

      I hope that makes sense.

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    2. But... I do not thing ADR would help resolve such an issue - it would depend on facts and proof. If we have proof of the contract being formed we are entitled to the full contractually agreed price. Not going to ADR, we will try to help, threaten ADR and we go by the book and sue for the full cost if not paid. Indeed, we have to ensure we sue within the 8 weeks before ADR is allowed, else we may have an ADR judgement the other way and no option to appeal. It is a crazy system that stops us reaching more amicable agreements with customers.

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    3. Oh, and seriously - if that viewpoint for A&A is not "right", please tell me. Keen to understand what people think.

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    4. Would your systems have recognised that the service "ordered" had never been used and led to a clear up of the mess within a month or so?

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    5. We have a task to check customers that have broadband and have not connected, though ordering duplicate broadband by mistake is quite tricky. For SIMs we don't start ongoing charges until the SIM is activated or first used. For some cheaper services like £1/month VoIP we don't do any checks, but again rarely an issue. We do put everything on the one monthly bill which helps avoid confusion though.

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    6. I can confirm that last point. When I migrated in to you I ended up with a bill with both Home::1 and units based broadband. Rang up and within 40 minutes all sorted with new invoice, statement and DD notification issued. It's how a supplier reacts if something does go wrong (and they will from time to time) that matters. 10/10 from you guys - my old ISP would have waited until the first DD cleared in to their account before issuing a refund that toook up to 14 days to arrive leaving me out of pocket for weeks.

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    7. And when mistakes happen we try to improve processes to stop them happening in future - it is an ongoing battle with technology and processes but it is important to try and improve.

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  8. No, that seems completely fair really, I didn't mean to seem hostile by turning it back on you really.

    You're an exception when it comes to these sorts of things though, in as much as most call centres only record 1 or 2 calls a week per agent for "QA", and with mobile phones regularly being bought in store there isn't much "evidence" there. Few companies are likely to have the level of logging you have, and most don't make their systems in house and likely don't even realise what logs do exist in the COTS systems they've bought.

    I would assume it would likely come down to "balance of probabilities" in court, and your Son's argument would be that his non-use shows he did not order 2 sims and EE's would be him paying for it for a year shows he did accept he had 2 sims. I wouldn't like to call that one, so I can see how the ADR could come to this result.

    I can also completely understand your aversion to ADR - it comes to seemingly random decisions far too often, and to be honest any system where even when you're in the right, you're better to just let them out of contract than allow the customer to take you to ADR - even if you win - is just broken.

    Not that the courts are much better sometimes. Perhaps we need to work on replacing judges with robots that evaluate the law programmatically and therefore consistently.

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    1. Well, mostly, courts can be taken to the next level - for a fee. ADR has no appeal whatsoever, ever for the party paying for it!

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