Thursday, 21 February 2008

Further Punterization Issues

Take the money and run punterization rouses: there should be a law against them!

I’ve noticed now that British Airways (BA) is automatically adding travel insurance to the cost of flights for customers who book online (Readers Rants, Sunday Times Travel Supplement. February 10, 2008 p. 30.). The way this works is that unless you see that this is what is happening and chose to check the box so that the charge is not added you get billed for it on it your credit card. I wonder how many people are getting caught out who already have travel insurance – or who wanted to book it separately – or not at all are being caught out by this rouse. Either way BA stands to gain more from doing this than what they did before where customers chose to opt-in for insurance if they wanted it.

Last year I booked a flight to Berlin with the cheapest budget operator I could find – Ryanair. And Ryanair’s website was then doing the same thing with insurance that BA is doing now. So it seems that BA is now adopting the snaky business practices of budget airlines. Bent Society business practices can be seen here to rise up then and infest others like damp mould from any old corrupt cellar.

Interestingly I found out something else about Ryanair’s business practices that are designed to catch your pocket. Having booked my flight and chosen to purposefully exclude Ryanair’s insurance - that their website tried automatically to add to my booking – I was asked if I wanted now to book my hotel through Ryanair while still online on their website and pay for the tickets and hotel in one go. I looked at the price for the hotel I wanted and wrote it down and decided that I would book it through Ryanair but only after I had paid for my tickets and only if I could not get a cheaper deal on the booking elsewhere. So at that point I simply paid for my flight and logged out of the website.

Looking elsewhere on the Internet, I found that I could get the room I wanted in the same hotel a little cheaper by going directly to the hotel’s German website. But I decided to go back and book it through Ryanair – so that at least I would not be bumped from my flight if Ryanair oversubscribed the flight. And unbelievably that is something that airlines are legally able to do, because they work out that on average there is always someone who cannot make it due to delays or whatever. But when, on the odd occasion, everyone happens to turn up who booked a ticket - all expecting that to mean they have a seat paid for and reserved – that’s when people get bumped. My reasoning was that with corresponding hotel reservations for that night booked through Ryanair I would not be a prime candidate for bumping. And I was not paying personally anyway because this was an all expenses paid trip to deliver a criminology paper at an international conference.

Now here is the snaky business bit – the exact same hotel booking was a lot cheaper on the Ryanair Website, now that they did not know I had bought a flight from them, than it was when I booked my ticket and they asked if I wanted also to book a hotel in order to get a good deal by paying for the flight and hotel together.

Why would they do this? Surely there should be discount for booking the two together? Well not if you think the way Ryanair does. Because Ryanair’s Flight and Hotel Snaky Charge Rouse must surely work on the principle that Ryanair reason that anyone opting to book their hotel with the airline that they just bought their flight from are going to be lazy, dumb, or too busy - or else their company is paying and they don’t care - to bother to shop around. But those just coming to the Ryanair site to check out hotel prices –as the system assumed I was doing on my second visit - are going to be thrifty bargain hunters looking for the cheapest deal.

Just one more trickle-down corrupting influence courtesy of Ryanair.
Nice going Ryanair. This devious little business rouse shows us exactly what you think of your punters (oops sorry I mean customers) doesn’t it. What a fine wily old example to set for our younger people about morals and treacherous Bent Society snaky dealings.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Further Tales of the Punterization of 'Customers'

Direct Debit Business Snakiness and Related Scams

Since the first shockwaves of the impending UK acquisitive Crimequake predicted in yesterday’s post are some months away from hitting us yet, today’s post focuses upon yet more mundane examples of snaky Bent Society practices that we encounter daily in Britain.

On Monday’s post I mentioned the fact that British ramblers are outraged at the hypocrisy of Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary of State, for not allowing a public right of way around his family’s coastal property when she was instrumental in getting rights of way established over the land of so many other coastal property owners.

Interstingly, last week I received a letter from the Ramblers Association that represents an example of how businesses and other organisations seek to profit from a relatively new but already common place banking procedure known as Direct Debit. Essentially, Direct Debits are used to pay for all kinds of gods and services including insurance, membership fees and utility bills. And once started by them, Direct Debits have to be cancelled by the bank account holder - or else the money is paid to whoever they have given written authority to take money from their account. And just so long as the person or organisation receiving money from the Direct Debit writes to you at your last known address warning you –and thereby tipping you off to cancel the Direct Debit if you wish to so do- they can even increase the amount taken by whatever they like.

In effect, unless you cancel the Direct Debit yourself they can and will keep taking your money

And so the Ramblers Association, of which I am a member, wrote to me last week to inform me that: “We will debit your account £** on (amount and date removed to preserve anonymity) unless you advise otherwise. Please let us know immediately if this should be changed.”

Now, personally, I would rather the system worked where the Direct Debit ended each year and they wrote in advance of the termination date asking for my approval to keep it active. But then of course the Ramblers’ Association and other businesses and bodies would not make all the millions they must get from ill, dead, forgetful, over-worked, stressed out, money rich but time poor, lackadaisical and/or regular address changing punters.

Anyway, the fact that Direct Debits per se have great potential to work against our financial interests, unless we stay on the ball, is a minor Bent Society issue compared with other Direct Debit related business tricks - such as those practiced by major utility companies in the UK. Because at least, so long as we are not dead or too ill to enjoy it, we get what we pay for with non-cancelled Direct Debits. However, as the next example reveals, some utility companies are getting away with unnecessarily holding onto, and no doubt investing, their customer’s money while providing no service for it - nor paying them any interest whatsoever.

The e-on keep the customer’s money for aeons scam

I am a customer of the electricity provider e-on (the Direct Debit scam-artist utility company formerly known as Powergen). In the autumn I received a statement from e-on to tell me that my meter had been read and that I was more then £100 in credit. In other words I had been paying considerably more on my Direct Debit over the past year than I was using in electricity. Now, ‘all should be well’ I thought because e-on’s autumn 2007 letter kindly went on the say: “As you pay by Direct Debit, we will carry your balance forward to your next statement. We regularly review how much you are paying to make sure it is the right amount and will let you know if it needs to change.”

Well e-on, first of all I would like to say here how wonderfully vague-spin-Bliarite of you to use the word regularly. How regularly exactly is that then– once a year? Once every 5 years. Every decade perhaps? I ask this in all sincerity, because at the end of January 2008 e-on wrote to me again to inform me that my payments are now considerably over £100 in credit - oh and also to let me know that they are regularly reviewing the situation blah, blah etc, etc. But they have not paid me back the excess money they have taken and they include no mention of an intention to do so.

I feel tempted to telephone e-on in order to ask them to please let me have my extra money back now thank you very much – just like I remember I had to do earlier last springtime when the same thing happened. But no dear readers, in the interests of social science let us see instead exactly what e-on means by “regularly reviewing” my monthly payments and what happens to the excess balance of my money that is in their bank account.

Dr Society