Data collection by United Utilities’ foreign call centres

Recently I mentioned how I called United Utilities and was asked for my date of birth for ‘data protection’ reasons. I refused to give it and they wouldn’t discuss my water bill.

I called again today and, this time, was asked for my date of birth and National Insurance number! The woman on the end of the line sounded shifty and unprofessional. She kept hitting the buttons on the ‘phone by mistake and there were long pauses as if she didn’t know what to say. I got the impression she was in a call centre in a different country.

I said I wouldn’t give this information and asked to be put through to a manager at head office in Warrington to discuss why I was being asked for it. But she said no one was available and it would be 24 hours before someone could call me back. I felt this was intended to deter me and just made me feel more suspicious.

So instead I telephoned the Consumer Council for Water and made a complaint. They told me it was the second they’d had about this today.

Two years ago the BBC reported how call centre workers in India were collecting data on people and selling it on to crooks. A date of birth here, a mother’s maiden name there and pretty soon they have quite a bit to play with. Some of them were getting hold of passport and credit card data, pin numbers and passwords from callers and then selling them on to be used for fraud.

United Utilities seems to be a frighteningly disorganised company. The letter I received from them this morning is dated 28 April — twelve days ago — and asks me to make a payment ‘within the next seven days’. It doesn’t seem to mention the payment I made on 16 April.

The last letter I had from them was dated 30 March and asked me to make a payment on 31st — the following day.

Then, you can bet, they will cancel the payment plan because the payments haven’t been made on time.

The 30 March letter says the payments due are £10, £9.29 and £8.60 — total £27.89. But in the letter today they claim I owe them £27.87. What happened to the other two pence?

Do you really want a company like this to have a lot of your personal details on file?

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