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BBC1's "Hard Cash" Features BT Cellnet's Credit Card Fraud Scandal

Updating this website
Image © BBC 2000

BBC1's "Hard Cash" consumer financial affairs programme on 22. May featured interviews with Steve Pardoe and with Mr John Cross, Cellnet's Head of Security. The item was suggested during recent telephone calls and e-mail correspondence with the BBC, and partly researched via this web site.

The BBC have now run at least six consumer programmes critical of BT Cellnet's disgraceful business practices. My case originally featured in their "Watchdog" programme on Thursday 11. March 1999. You can read a summary of that programme, and find links to the others, here.

After the programme, the BBC's phone line received more than 300 calls relating to mobile phone problems, several of them from fraud victims who, until then, had no idea that the problem was so widespread; and, as expected, our website server log showed a huge increase in traffic, with one of the busiest weeks on record.

Steve Pardoe was interviewed at his office in Northwich by Rhodri Owen.

He outlined his own experience of Cellnet's taking 180, from him and his company, without authorisation, and was critical of the unhelpful response received from Cellnet when he rang to complain, as long ago as February 1999. He had asked for an apology, compensation, and an assurance that it wouldn't happen again. Cellnet simply told him he should be more careful about his own card security, and said "you'll get nothing out of Cellnet".

Cellnet's wanton insecurity and cynical response prompted this web campaign. See our précis page for a summary of the story.

The interview with Rhodri Owen
Image © BBC 2000

John Cross talking to Rhodri Owen
Image © BBC 2000

After being briefed by me and researching the subject partly through this website, the BBC wrote to Mr John Cross, Head of Security at BT Cellnet, requesting an interview between Mr Cross and some disgruntled victims of his credit card security shambles.

Mr Cross didn't reply to the letter, but, after some reminders, a Cellnet PR person agreed that an interview could be filmed with Mr Cross alone.

My unofficial transcript of the interview between Rhodri Owen and John Cross, broadcast 22/5/2000, follows.

I had just suggested, during my interview with Rhodri Owen, that BT Cellnet should refund double the amount they took from people, as that might provide some compensation to their credit card fraud victims, and act as an incentive for BT Cellnet to solve the problem.

Rhodri Owen (out of shot, over film of him walking into BT Cellnet's office in Slough)

"So, would BT Cellnet's Head of Security be prepared to entertain the idea of compensating fraud victims?"

John Cross

"We are more than prepared to listen to what people have to say to us".

Rhodri Owen

"But compensate? Do you compensate people for the inconvenience?"

John Cross

"We are more than prepared to talk to the customer. We have a process which will look at compensation, if compensation is warranted".

Well, now, is that a proper answer to a legitimate question about a long-standing and widespread consumer complaint, or a gratuitously bland and repetitive PR statement? No wonder Cellnet wouldn't agree to face their victims on camera, if this is the best they can come up with!

I have found Mr Cross, and BT Cellnet's Customer Care Line, completely unhelpful when I have spoken to them by telephone. Mr Cross still hasn't answered my letter (despite its being posted by Recorded Delivery, and later downloaded electronically from this website by Cellnet), and my requests for compensation have been refused point blank.

Perhaps Mr Cross is again being disingenuous in carefully referring, as he does, to being prepared to talk to "the customer". Of course they'll talk to their customers (though this near-monopoly telecomms supplier still feels the need to charge a premium rate for its helpline). The people who are being defrauded through Mr Cross's inadequate security are generally not Cellnet customers anyway, so perhaps he neatly excludes them from his prepared statement. Cute.

Or is it? Spin-doctoring Cellnet's policy on credit card fraud may sound plausible enough when the PR suits at Fishburn Hedges are brainstorming over a latte or two, but it's not a substitute for solving the problem. The public don't take kindly to being ripped off, and even less do they enjoy hearing this kind of nonsense from the person who has publicly taken personal responsibility for it.

The fact is, Cellnet rip you off, then fob you off. They don't have a "process", other than a disgracefully and deliberately insecure credit card top-up system, backed up by disingenuous PR.

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