Steve Pardoe's Cellnet Pages
Third Letter to the Office of Fair Trading

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used here for the purposes of illustration and fair comment only

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Cellnet are taking money from the credit card accounts of thousands of innocent people...   ...even though they haven't got a Cellnet phone!


This letter was sent to the Office of Fair Trading on 7. February 2000. It follows my letter to Cellnet's Head of Security Mr John Cross on 28. January, no reply having been received from Cellnet.

(I know that Cellnet received my letter, as it was sent by recorded delivery, and they also downloaded the letter as a web page on 2. February, so they can hardly deny receiving it).


Office of Fair Trading
Field House, 15-25 Breams Buildings
LONDON
EC4A 1PR

7. February 2000  
Your ref 344739  
Dear Sirs,

CONSUMER CREDIT ACT 1974 and BT CELLNET
(Telecom Securicor Cellular Radio Limited)
Systematic Credit Card Fraud by BT Cellnet against the Public

I am disappointed that you have not replied to my letter of 27. July 1999 (from my home address [ ] ), drawing your attention to BT Cellnet's deliberate policy of taking money, without authorisation, from the credit card and bank accounts of thousands of consumers who do not have any connection with Cellnet. These consumers are victims of fraud, owing to the lax and cynical manner in which Cellnet allow their customers to top up pre-pay mobile phones by keying in any credit or debit card number and expiry date, without requiring registration.

I was a victim myself in January 1999, and again in December 1999 when Cellnet took money from the Company Barclaycard account of one of my colleagues. Since I am a proprietor of the company in question, the theft was essentially against me. I contacted both Cellnet and the Police about this, but neither would offer any assistance in tracing the fraudulent top-up. The Police declined to investigate the theft, as I could not show them exactly where and when a crime had been committed. They eventually referred me to Cellnet's Customer Service Line.

Cellnet stated in the "Daily Telegraph" article of 18. December that "if credit cardholders inform it of incorrect deductions, it will close down whichever mobile phone has benefited" (I have recently confirmed with the author of the article that she quoted their spokesman verbatim). I had already tried this approach for myself, by contacting Cellnet's Head of Security, Mr John Cross, on 16. December, when he also declined to investigate the matter, saying he did not know who I was. I have since written to Mr Cross, and a copy of my letter is enclosed.

When, on the Police advice, I telephoned Cellnet's Customer Service Line (0990 214 000), a lady confirmed that Cellnet could indeed identify and turn off a phone used in a fraudulent transaction, but that they couldn't tell me its number, in case I took matters into my own hands. She kept telling me that I would need to tell her the telephone number of the phone that had been used in the transaction, before she could take any action to have it turned off, or the user traced and prosecuted. This number is obviously known only to Cellnet and the fraudster, a cosy relationship which prevents the victim or the Police from pursuing the fraudster, and which, in my view, obstructs justice.

It is obvious that Cellnet's claim of cooperation is a falsehood, and that they are comfortable with protecting their customer, the fraudulent telephone user, from prosecution, while leaving the innocent victim vulnerable to repeated loss and inconvenience. I think this is disgraceful, and I am appalled that the OFT persist in refusing to do anything about it.

I repeat, BT Cellnet have a deliberate policy of taking money from people's bank and credit card accounts, without authority and without compensation. When challenged, Cellnet refuse to cooperate with the victim in tracing the fraudster. I think Cellnet should lose their licence under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, and I await your comments on this.

I strongly urge you to review the background to this story at my website, www.pardoes.com/cellnet/ , which carries a great deal of supporting correspondence and information. If you consider that the Director General of the Office of Fair Trading does not have the power to act in this matter, kindly advise me to where I should turn instead. Simply ignoring the problem is not an option. It is not going to go away.

Yours faithfully,

S.J. Pardoe
Director, Able Systems Limited


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