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Thursday 29 May 2008

Companies continue to rip off consumers with 0870 and 0845 customer-service numbers

‘A list of companies and government agencies using costly phone helplines to make money at customers’ expense has been published by a consumer group.’


Filed under: consumer — GS @ 7:19 am
Wednesday 16 May 2007

Photographer loses image library in fire — how safe is your audio and visual data?

As a photographer myself, I broke out into a cold sweat reading how this poor man lost most of his image library in the Lever Street fire. Equipment can be replaced but unique transparencies, negatives and digital images can’t be.


Filed under: History,Manchester,Photography,TV & film,Video-making — GS @ 9:59 am
Sunday 15 April 2007

Data protection

Have you noticed how many companies are trying to get the most unnecessary personal data these days? My favourite a few months ago was when I called United Utilities and they told me they couldn’t discuss my water bill over the telephone unless I gave them my date of birth.


Filed under: Politics — GS @ 10:35 am
Wednesday 25 October 2006

Questions that Manchester Pride, Marketing Manchester & the Manchester Evening News don’t want to answer

On 18 August 2006 I wrote to Manchester Pride with the following questions. I received a reply from Marketing Manchester, saying that I would get a ‘prompt reply’ just as soon as Pride was over. More than two months later I am still waiting…

Here is my letter:


Filed under: LGBT,Manchester — GS @ 1:14 pm
Wednesday 20 September 2006

Mystery calls on my BT phone bill

Tonight I received the latest quarterly telephone bill from British Telecom for the house here.

I arrived here on 29 July. So, as you would expect, there are no calls listed on the bill until 29 July …

That is, except for two calls to the premium rate numbers 09066 361152 and 09066 361153, on the afternoon of 10 July. Total cost for the two short calls, more than £11.

This is most interesting, because there was no one here on 10 July. My dad is the only other person who has a key and he hadn’t visited. He lives by himself fifty miles away, hasn’t been driving any long distances recently and has his own ‘phone.

Furthermore, when I arrived on the 29th July, there was a massive pile of junk mail behind the front door, which wouldn’t have been where it was if anyone had entered the house less than three weeks before.

Phantom calls on my BT phone bill

The ‘phone companies and regulator like to make out that calls can only show on the bill if someone in the household has made the calls.

But here is a case where no calls were made from this number at all for a long period before 29 July 2006, except for these two premium rate calls to consecutive numbers in the space of 20 minutes on one afternoon. If this doesn’t clearly show that phantom calls can and do appear on a ‘phone bill when the household hasn’t made them, I don’t know what will.

I await BT’s response and will share it with you. Meanwhile I just found this:

Phantom phone scam hits another village.

And here’s a House of Commons debate about Premium Rate scams, from 2004.

Update (29 Sep 2006): It turns out the two calls were to adult services. BT has refunded the cost of them but says it can find no evidence that my line has been abused.

To be fair, they have handled this quickly and had suggested I pay the bill minus the two calls, until they finished their investigation.

They offer free barring of UK-based premium-rate calls, so I’ve had that restriction put on both my numbers, as I have no real interest in calling these numbers.

The whole incident has been quite alarming. But I have to be thankful that it was just a few Pounds and not several hundreds…

Filed under: General — GS @ 2:07 am
Tuesday 19 September 2006

Skype says I ‘must’ upgrade and shuts down

Tonight a chat friend asked if we could talk on Skype, which I hardly use anymore. I started it up, but it told me I ‘must’ upgrade and then shut itself down. I tried again and the same thing happened.

What if I happened to be on dial-up right now and needed to have a quick chat with someone? Who wants to be forced to download a 10Mb file over a dial-up connection and install it before they can make a call?

I really don’t like control-freak companies. This is my PC and I will decide what ‘must’ be upgraded and when.

Furthermore new versions of software aren’t always better. They can be bloated, less stable and even have fewer features in some cases. In fact there are websites that provide old versions precisely for that reason.

I’ll think I’ll be sticking to voice chat on MSN from now on.

Filed under: Net & technology — GS @ 11:07 pm
Wednesday 23 August 2006

Here Come the Double Deckers

One of my favourite TV programmes as a kid.

As far as I can make out, this series has never been released on video or DVD in the UK (and probably not in the US either). The last time I remember it being on terrestrial TV here was in the Granada ITV region in 1990.

This is one of a vast number of British television programmes and films that remain unseen, languishing in a vault somewhere. There are British films that I’ve never been able to watch and there is no way to see them because they are not available anywhere.

As a content producer myself I understand the need for copyright. But, is it right that companies can deny us access to our cultural heritage and prevent us from viewing these for decades? Simply because they can’t be bothered, or can’t make a profit by releasing them.

There should be some way for people to see these. Either require the companies to make a copy available that people can borrow from a local library. Or make it legal to share non-profit copies of commercially unavailable material.

Filed under: TV & film — GS @ 11:02 pm
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