back to article Credit Management meets computer automation

Shortly after Easter, a newly installed computer system sent out red letters to over 3,000 Derby City residents who had already paid their Council Tax. There were howls of outrage, and an obligatory computer error excuse from the Council. Matters were then compounded as angry residents tried contacting the Council to put the …


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  1. jake Silver badge


    "In one hi-tech company, this problem was so acute that canny customers eventually worked out that the quickest way to obtain 6 months free subscription was to default on a payment - because marketing would do anything in their power to prevent the customer count from reducing."

    That was AOL. Where are they now? Pardon me while I read the next four pages ...

  2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    What would you rather do?

    1) Talk to a machine for 5 minutes, find the machine cannot help you, then wait half an hour for a human. The human is overworked, underpaid and has not been given the resources or authority to do a proper job. There is a risk that whatever you agree over the phone will be forgotten the next day. You will have to make the same phone call again later, and explain it all again to the person in the next cubical.

    2) Type a letter. Print two copies. File one and post the other. Let the letter wait in a queue for you. Both sides get to keep a reminder of what was said, and overworked staff can deal with their in tray at a steady pace rather than with the added pressure of 50 tax payers on hold.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...which begs the question of how much damage..."

    No it doesn't - you meant to say it raises the question; begging it would . See

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Insensitive? Try bank "agents"

    I was defrauded, and the same bank that allowed payments to go astray (case pending for breach of mandate - thank you Ombudsman for just sitting on it for 6 months) has then handed off payment to an agency.

    This is where it gets interesting, because they have a lot of devious tactics.

    First off, it breaks the data trail. If you do a Data Subject Access request you will find you have to spend twice as much, because it's all of a sudden separate from the bank (and my test showed there's no evidence of handover provided in the data they send). But it's not an assignment - go figure (ICO request to investigate underway as well). Secondly, they have a neat trick with dates: they send you letters that you should pay NOW or all hell will break loose - backdated. So by the time you get this letter it appears as if you're too late - all just to induce panic in the hapless punter.

    They will call you - but as they cannot identify themselves without breaking Data Protection laws it is seen as a bad mark on YOU that you're unwilling to provide credentials to some unknown stranger.

    The original case is going to court, so I presume that's why the frenzy to get me to pay what I don't own - given that the facts are against them I don't give them much hope but hey, it's a *UK* court. Weird things happen there.

    I must compliment the banks on the Financial Ombudsman system - all it does is delay matters by at least 6 months because they won't take a decision, but a referral to "take the matter to court" is seen by the bank as vindication. I think I rather trust a politician than a UK bank.

  5. WinHatter
    Black Helicopters

    Prexisting condition

    A while back the Croydon Council invited me before the court . I paid but they were unable to trace my payment.

    So I wrote, mentioned the cheque number even provided them with a photocopy. They did not care and they went on with the default procedure ... my salute came from a certified copy of the cheque obtained from the bank only a couple of days before the due (court) date.

    They've never issued any formal apology ...

    In the end I found out why they lost track of my payments : they changed my "Customer number" half way through the instalment book. And those eejits never were able to link the 2 accounts with my forename & name that are most probably a unique combination worldwide.

    The company "handling" the payments was Liberata.

  6. Matt


    "In one hi-tech company, this problem was so acute that canny customers eventually worked out that the quickest way to obtain 6 months free subscription was to default on a payment - because marketing would do anything in their power to prevent the customer count from reducing."

    Sounds like Virgin to me. Around the time they reduced the channels but not payments.

  7. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Bankers ..... Start UR Engines ...... Choose UR Sponsor Champions

    "That is, businesses need to balance risk and profitability, while recognising there is no absolutely right answer: What works for one may not work for another."

    It is always a Sure Fire Winner with Business 42 Trick and Trip and Tip the Balancing, Risky Profitability into the Hat of Certain Probability......... for IMPerfect Absolution and Real Angels Wings which Virtually Fly 42 Race with International Space Stations.

    Cinderella RockerFeller Cloud Bursts/IntelAIgent Rushes .....for Stealthy Invisible Consortia Presenting the Future, with Mentored Transparent Instruction in Grand AIMastering for FailSafe ScoreLive Civil CyberSpace Control.

    Houston, have you any Problem with Enigma Sigma ReSolutions? Politically Polyamoral Space Manoeuvres ........ akin to Beagling in One World.

    That's the Beauty of One World ProgramMING, Share Them ur Deepest and Darkest Desires for Perfect Quenching to dDeliver Necessary Vital Creative Feeds as Natural Needs.

    In Essence, ReProgram Man to Always Build the Future QuITe Differently and Much Better, rather than Simply Submitting to the Will of Past Grand Mastery and the Convenient Establishment of Status Quo ...... and Aristocratic Hierarchies for Great Game Grand Masteries and Magical Turing Mysteries.

    "Businesses need to recruit "goods" - individuals who spend a lot and pay on time - and reject "bads." " ....... Bankers need to supply "goods" for their Pyramid to remain. For Business has seen the Attraction of Banking and would Challenge its Incestuous Exclusivity/Closed Shop Front. Bankers have proved themselves to be Catastrophic Business Brains so who would be Deciding on Future Business Proposals with Banks and Credit Facilities and be Responsible for Currency Flow and Absolutely Fabulous Power Controls? :-)

    "Philip King, Director General of the Institute of Credit Management, is well aware of this issue. Talking to The Register, he said: "The reality is that with less funds available from banks, the solution for many businesses is to beef up the flow of cash into the business." ... The Reality Spun has 00ddles of Currency available* ... for Onward Lending at Criminalising Rates rather than Simple Smart Immaculate dDelivery of Funds for Spending and Business Invention.

    * Quantitatively Eased Magic Potioning

    Although that does appear to be Global Banking System BailOut Model described to a Model T Ford.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE:Insensitive? Try bank "agents"

    I worked at a place that never used to announce where they were calling from, unless we were speaking with the person named on the screen. This was explained to be due to "Data Protection". When questioned several times as to why, because we didn't hold any data on them, we were just told "cos it's breaking DPA" which to me was fucking ridiculous.

    Eventually, thou a memo, we were told we can say where we are calling from and that it wasn't breaking DPA. After some investigation myself I found out that you have to say where your calling from regardless of who's on the other end of the phone.

    And regarding automated Phone systems, try pressing the # key several times, Those things are built to pass unrecognised/invalid responses to a real person.

    Ex *ank of America staff (UK)

  9. John Ozimek
    Paris Hilton

    "one hi-tech company"

    Hmmmm...good guesses as to the identity of the particular company, but my lips will remain sealed on this one. When I am not writing for the Register I still - boo! hiss! - carry out IT and Data consultancy for some of the UK's larger and more interesting companies. Much as I have done for the last twenty years.

    I also edit a rather dry journal on the subject - the Journal of Database Marketing (pub. Macmillan Palgrave).

    I therefore have sight of some very interesting case histories on an "in confidence" basis: the learning is valid; the identity of the company in question remains confidential - though judging by the various guesses, it seems like the one I was aware of is/was far from unique.

    Paris - cause I'm sure she knows how to keep her lips sealed

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Um... This is about Credit Management.... not banking...diffrent things...

  11. Anonymous Coward

    nPower PR

    Started off as a resonable article then seems to have morphed into a PR document for a power company that if recent experience is anything to go by charges for the majority of the annual high rate units during the winter months.

    If they advertise a rate which is x pence to the first n units and y pence thereafter shouldnt that be spread out over the year rather than 75% of the high rate units charged in December and January?

    The excuse is that most of the companies are doing it - so what - its still wrong to gouge customers especially the poor and elderly when they need the gas/electric the most.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Monthly direct debit is poor value

    When you pay by monthly direct debit you lose the three months credit you get with traditional billing. The modest discounts offered by the utilities do not make up for this.

    All my bills are on quarterly variable direct debit so I get the advantages of traditional billing without the hassle of having to go to the bank to make payments. All the utility companies I've used have offered this option, but none of them advertise it.

  13. Fatman Silver badge

    Pay Utilities quarterly???

    You LUCKY chaps, here in Floriduh; we have the unpleasant chore of having to pay most utilities MONTHLY!!!!

    Many of them repeatedly try to get you to permit direct debit for the bill. That is one thing I will never agree to. The reason why follows; I would rather make the payment from my bank's website, then let those scummy bastards touch my bank account. The way payments are handled differs between direct debit, and on line payment (i.e. "who" institutes the money transfer).

    I knew someone who was the CFO for a small company, and allowed their property liability insurance company to direct debit the insurance premium on a monthly basis. Well, those fools hit their bank account (monthly x ) 12 times in the first month alone. That should have indicated that the entire YEAR was paid in full!

    The second month, they hit it again for 11 times. The insurance company got a VERY nasty phone call about it, and after a week's delay, refunded the money They also promised that it would not happen again.

    Well guess what, the third month, they got hit for 10 times. This time, no phone call; just a complaint to the insurance commissioner's office. When the policy came up for renewal, they switched companies faster that you can run from a swarm of locusts.

  14. jake Silver badge

    @John Ozimek

    "it seems like the one I was aware of is/was far from unique."

    I've heard of a few others thru' the grapevine, but managing my Mom's AOL account is the only example that I have had direct experience with. For some daft reason, Marketing departments of the world seem to think that the Internet works the same as conventional media when it comes to eyeballs/ears & advertising ... i.e. more always equals better. Which isn't the case.

  15. wulff heiss

    but.. but...

    last block..

    if i will ever allow "smart" counters or "tagged" machines in my house w/o proper HF filtering to isolate their chitterchatter i shall be eControlled and would prefer just to get the damn cable directly in my brain - which will most likely finally may voting superfluous - they can then tell me whom to vote for anyways :/

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