Steve Pardoe's Cellnet Pages
Cellnet on BBC Radio 4's "You and Yours"

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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!

You can read the story here.

6. July: BBC Radio 4's "You and Yours" consumer affairs programme broadcast a recorded telephone interview with Steve Pardoe.

Cellnet put up a PR spokesman, Dave Massey, whose disingenuous replies typified Cellnet's cavalier and cynical approach to the fraud problem which they have deliberately introduced, and have still failed to address.

Here's my transcript of Mr Massey's remarks, with my comments in small bold type

Further down, you can read what Steve Player, the Brent and Harrow Trading Standards Officer, had to say about Cellnet's insecure billing system.

You and Yours, BBC Radio 4 Tuesday 6. July 1999

Dave Massey, Cellnet, talking to Trixie Rawlinson, said:

"Well, we're very sympathetic to the likes of Mr Pardoe and any other customer that's been a victim of this kind of fraud".

"Whilst you pointed out, the customers don't ultimately pay for being defrauded like this, but it is inconvenient for them and it can be distressing, and because of that we have identified ways of tightening up our pre-pay security processes and we have introduced extra measures this week".

"Well, the process we introduced last July when we launched our prepay services was a process agreed by the banking industry, that still checks the credit card number and expiry date against the banking industry's database".

What a disingenuous answer! Of course it does, but that check is to protect Cellnet, not to protect innocent cardholders.

"We've also introduced extra security measures since we introduced the service last July, and we've put in more this week that will make it very difficult for the criminals that are taking advantage of this process to perpetrate the fraud".

But there's no evidence that this will deter people who already have a pre-pay Cellnet phone, and are already topping it up illegally.

"I think it would also be wrong to force our customers to follow a process that destroys the simplicity and ease of purchase of a prepay service. One of the attractions is that there are no forms to complete, no contracts, and no bills".

Which is very convenient for Cellnet and their customers, but a disaster for the thousands of innocent card holders who are being defrauded!

"We have to manage the fraud that we know that we will get, we are not immune as an industry to credit card fraud, but we have to manage that, but at the same time offer an easy service to use to our customers".

Only because Cellnet have deliberately introduced a system vulnerable to fraud in the first place.

"I'd dispute that [suggestion that Cellnet are getting a free loan at the expense of customers, or people who aren't even customers] completely, customers do not pay for this kind of fraud".

Of course they do, even if they eventually get a refund. Who else pays?

"We have a number of measures in place that can not only prevent this fraud from happening but also can pick up the cards that have been fraudulently topped up in this way".

"Cards"? it's phones that are being fraudulently topped up this way. If this is a slip of the tongue, and Mr Massey meant to say "phones", he'd be lying. Cellnet can't trace the phones, only (and belatedly, after the cardholder reports it) the card that was used fraudulently.

"We've introduced measures soon after we launched and we've introduced extra measures this week as well so..."

[interrupted, a bit late, etc, and can they now say that the problem is solved?]

"It would be wrong to say that we can eradicate fraud completely, and certainly other networks and other businesses that operate in the same way would say the same thing".

Another disingenuous answer. Other networks and businesses do not operate the same way, as they take a more responsible attitude to credit card fraud.

"What we've got in place now is a set of measures that we believe will make it very very difficult for these people to carry out this fraud, and inconvenience customers in this way".

Well, as Trixie Rawlinson said, we'll see. I frankly don't believe that Cellnet can have fixed their problem this week, as Mr Massey claims, in respect of the hundreds of thousands of pre-pay phones Cellnet have already sold. It's all very well to (claim to have) put a new system in place, but what are they doing about the phones already out there?

Steve Player, the Brent and Harrow Trading Standards Officer, made the important point that anonymous phones are an open invitation to criminals. He told the programme that he had written to Oftel and to the DTI, pointing out the flaws in the system of issuing unregistered, untraceable phones, but he went on to say that "unfortunately they seem to be more concerned in promoting wider ownership of mobile phones than helping helping Trading Standards services and the police force catch criminals".

Oftel and the DTI simply say that they'll review the situation should there be more of these situations arising.

I sympathise with Mr Player. This official attitude is disgraceful. How many "situations" need to arise before they act? Thousands of innocent parties are already being defrauded, some to the tune of thousands of pounds, yet none of the regulatory bodies is prepared to do anything about it.

I find it ironic that Cellnet (who are part-owned by Securicor, a company which trades on safe transit of people's money) publicise their "U" pre-pay phone service with a picture of a fingerprint. What kind of customer is that logo supposed to appeal to?

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