I think Quidco have a bit of a mail merge bug. I just received the following email:

Somehow I don't think that's what they meant to say...

I wonder how many of those they’ve just sent out…

As a low volume mobile phone user I have, for the last ten years, been on an Orange tariff known as OVP Virgin which price matches the original Virgin Mobile tariff. This is essentially a pay as you go style tariff, with no fixed monthly fees, except that it is paid in arrears by direct debit like a contract tariff. The major advantage of this is that full international roaming is available rather than the restricted roaming available on PAYG tariffs.

The OVP Virgin tariff has long since stopped being available to new customers, but existing customers have been allowed to keep it. Equally Virgin themselves have stopped offering the post pay option on their PAYG tariffs, except for users who have a SIM on their original PAYG tariff. As it happens I have one of those as well…

The net effect of this is that my average bill over ten years has been about £1.25 a month which means that even after buying two phones outright during that period I have come out much better than I would have done by being on contract with a subsidised phone.

I have recently upgraded to a 3G phone however, which meant I needed to find a new tariff as Orange apparently refuse to enable 3G data for OVP Virgin customers, presumably because they would quite like to get rid of them.

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One of the data sets released by Ordnance Survey as part of the recent OS OpenData release was OS Locator, which is a gazetteer that basically lists the name of every road in the country along with a bounding box for it.

ITO World have now made use of that data to do a comparison with OpenStreetMap and produce a set of tiles which can be overlaid on OpenStreetMap to highlight roads in OS Locator which do not appear to be in OpenStreetMap – that doesn’t always mean the road is missing, or even missing a name – sometimes it just means we don’t agree on what the name is!

A case in point is a road near me called Oxenden Drive. At least that is what OpenStreetMap thinks it is called – the OS Locator data calls it Oxendon Drive instead as shown in this show of OpenStreetMap with the ITO World overlay:

Oxenden or Oxdendon?

So today I paid a visit to recheck the name on the signs and sure enough, the signs agree with OpenStreetMap and say Oxenden Drive.

The Hertfordshire County Council Gazetteer seems to agree with Ordnance Survey (Oxendon) while Royal Mail’s address database comes down on the side of Oxenden.

At the end of all that I’ve decided to leave it as it is, as Oxenden Drive, but who knows what the real answer is…

In a strange twist in my ongoing battles with BT it seems that they have decided they would like to borrow £8.97 from me for the next three months.

The situation is that a year ago I changed my package and the new package includes a discount of £2.99 a month if you agree to be bound by a rolling one year contract. To date everything has been fine and they have deducted the discount from each quarterly bill.

In April they wrote to say that the first year was nearly up and that if I didn’t contact them they would assume I wanted to continue for a further year. I was happy to continue so did nothing.

I was slightly surprised therefore when the latest bill showed no discount beyond 21st May when the first year ended. So I contacted them to ask what going on, and this is what I was told in response.

I can confirm that the reason the discount has not been applied to your recent bill is because BT wanted to make sure that you where happy to keep the service, therefore this will all be rectified on your next bill in August 19th 2010 and on this bill you will be able to see the adjustments, which will cover the billing period for the 20th May 2010 also.

So basically they are saying that they’re going to take bill me the full price now then refund me on the next bill - essentially they want to borrow £8.97 from me for the next three months so they can earn the interest on it instead of me.

The bit about wanting to make sure I was happy to continue is, of course, complete nonsense. As soon as I allowed it roll over into the second year I was contractually bound to continue with it for that year and I’m sure they would have been very quick to bill me for the rest of the year if I had tried to cancel.

I guess maybe I should consider what interest rate I should apply to my loan to them…

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the use of OpenStreetMap in The London Cycling Guide and specifically about the lack of proper credit for the project and its contibutors.

Well I’m delighted to say that today a representative of the publishers posted a comment on that piece apologising and explaining what they’re doing to correct things and to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.

So I think that’s a belated “Well Done” to New Holland Publishers.

I was trying to use BT’s web site to contact them about an issue with my bill and the first page of the contact section includes a little box called “From the forums” which shows recent discussion topics. The titles of those are, of course, chosen by the users that start them which in this case probably didn’t produce the kind of impression BT would like to be giving:

Possibly not the impression BTs would want to give

Yes, that’s right, the first discussion listed is titled “Am I really Unlucky or is BT Customer Services really this abysmal?”. From my experience I’d say the answer is yes, it really is that abysmal…

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece, inspired by the NHS Summary Care Record system, about the idea of crowdsourcing the monitoring of audit trails.

Today the Open Rights Group has an article about electronic medical records which, talking about the well known case when Gordon Brown’s medical record was accessed improperly, notes an interesting feature of the Scottish system:

Bizarrely enough, I’m slightly reassured by this story: we know about incidents in Scotland only because their Emergency Care Record system is set up to notify patients when their record has been accessed.

Of course it then goes on to say how poorly the English system compares:

In England, you have no idea if your Summary Care Record (SCR) has been accessed or not.

So it turns out that not only can my idea work in theory - it’s actually been tried and has worked in practice.

Yesterday I received a most surprising email from Thames Water. The relevant part reads as follows:

As a result of a recent data checking exercise that we have carried out, we have discovered that there was an occasion during the year 2007/08 when we did not respond to an email that you had sent to us. We are really sorry about this.

Under the terms of our Customer Guarantee Scheme, you are entitled to a payment of £30.00 plus an additional goodwill gesture of £10.00 for not making the payment at the time. If you are a Thames Water customer, the payment will be made as a credit to your water services account. If you are not billed for water and wastewater services by us, then we will make the payment by way of a cheque.

Needless to say I was more than a little astonished. I think I have now managed to work out which email they are referring to…

I recently received my copy of The London Cycling Guide by Tom Bogdanowicz, which I bought both because I was interested in the routes it shows and because it uses OpenStreetMap maps throughout. As an example, here’s a part of one of the maps, showing the Isle of Dogs:

The Isle of Dogs from The London Cycling Guide
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I think the following quotes from my email exchange with BT speaks for itself. First my email to BT last Thursday:

Whilst this clearly addresses the question of how the second call came to be made after I had been placed on the opt out list, and I am quite happy to accept that explanation, it appears to say nothing about how the first (or indeed the second) call came to be made when my number was registered with the Telephone Preference Service.

Equally it says nothing about why the Complaints Management team were failing to manage my complaint by not replying to my earlier letters.

and in reply from BT I get this:

Following your email, I am now pleased to confirm your complaint has been closed as fully resolved with your agreement.

Strangely enough I don’t remember agreeing to any such thing. I guess I was wrong when I said I was getting somewhere with them…