Abandon All Fear

What nobody else seems to be saying…

Archive for the ‘Duh!’ Category

[Linux] How Xandros Shot Linux In The Foot

Posted by Lex Fear on April 6, 2009

It was an open goal. M$ decommissioning  XP, Linux being the only capable OS of running on this tight new ultra-portable sub-notebook. Dare we say it… “The year…” had finally arrived?!

So how could it go wrong?

El Reg has just published a new article on the competition between Windows and Linux on the Netbook, and by outward appearances, it looks like Micro$haft is has caught up and overtaken Linux in popularity… but I haven’t seen anyone yet analyse WHY:

Microsoft cries netbook victory against Linux

Rubbing in the salt, LeBlanc added: “Not only are people overwhelmingly buying Windows, but those that try Linux are often returning it,” he said.

Why, you might ask? LeBlanc: “Because users simply expect the Windows experience. When they realize their Linux-based netbook PC doesn’t deliver that same quality of experience, they get frustrated and take it back.”

Aah, the Windows experience, but what is this elusive ‘Windows Experience’ that Linux lacks? Is it the need to purchase an external DVD drive in order to install software? Is it the slow-down and need to defrag every couple of months in order to return to a usable speed? Is it the comfort of knowing you will get no vendor support from M$ and have to rely on techy friends to spend 30 hours ridding your system of that pesky “mywebsearch” trojan that you got from accepting some preloaded-with-malware stupid free game download that you installed last week which is now bringing your system to a halt?

No, let me attempt to define the “Windows Experience”… It’s the comfort of having a logical bottom of screen taskbar, showing the time/date, running programs, background programs and a start/logo to click on which gives you instant access to all your programs.

Sure Windows XP is old, it’s vulnerable to every security risk going, it randomly does things in the background and must be constantly purged of bloat. But the thing about Windows XP is that it feels professional. It feels like a grown up operating system.

Don’t tell me about familiarity, plenty of boomers have managed to get their heads around Firefox, Google, Skype, Blogger, MySpace, Facebook and the rest of Web 2.0 not to mention the myriad of operating systems installed with their mobile phones. Last time I checked Web 2.0 was not bundled with Windows XP. No, it’s not familiarity that’s an issue here, it’s the GUI.

Just contrast this child-friendly looking interface:

To this more grown up one:

If something looks like it’s made for children, adults won’t use it for themselves. I mean, couldn’t Asus/Xandros just package the Easy Mode GUI as an option rather than the default GUI?

It doesn’t matter that the Easy Mode is more intuitive and ‘easy’ for a smaller screen. Mainstream people don’t mind the small text, the small buttons, the little graphical issues that a full blown OS like XP presents when it tries to open a 1100×600 window on a 1024 x 600 screen. They accept that as part of the package, just like they accept they’ve got to run several different internet security solutions in tandem just to be able to surf and write email.

And I know what you’re going to say – “But Xandros can be configured to look just like XP, they even changed the name of the applications…” Well that just turns it into a cheaper imitation of XP, something that will turn mainstream users off faster than a childish GUI.

Average net-heads see installing Windows XP on their netbooks as a kind of technological feat, as though it somehow demonstrates their technical prowess and smarts despite the fact it’s more a demonstration of their fear or stepping outside their comfort zone.

What netbook manufacturers and Linux advocates need to do if they want to keep flogging a free OS on their netbooks- Is to offer a professional, decent looking OS which has the same functionality as Windows, the same comforting feel, yet is not, and is not trying to be, Windows. They need to embrace the alternative OS. Don’t try to make it easy and don’t try to make it like XP. Just make it good.

I got a Samsung NC10 for Christmas from my wonderful wife. It came Windows XP Home ULPC.. do you know how shitty that version is? And yet, for a larger hdd and Intel Atom processor this is the OS of choice over something like Ubuntu or Fedora!

Needless to say I set about formatting the Windows Virus off my nc10 and installing Ubuntu from a pendrive (yeah – did you know some Linux distros have options to create pendrives now?), later moving to Ubuntu Ultimate.. which wipes the floor with both XP and Vista.

Check this out:

My Atom processor handles Ultimate Edition quite well, starts to balk if I enable desktop Sphere, but handles Cylinder no problem.

Sure, there are always going to be people who are stuck in their comfort zone, and die-hard Windows fanboys, but distro makers have to stop trying to emulate the ‘Windows Experience’, and cheating newbies out of the ‘Linux Experience’ like Xandros has with the Eee PC.

It was an open goal for Linux which somehow become an own goal, but the match is not over. They seriously need to rethink and regroup if they want to prevent what is becoming the year of  Windows 7 on the Netbook.

Advertisements

Posted in Buyer Beware, Duh!, Open Source, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

[Pause for Thought] Stem Cells

Posted by Lex Fear on March 20, 2009

Just so we’re clear, everyone knows that you can collect stem cells from a placenta. right?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Duh!, Morals & Ethics, Realpolitik, Religion & Science, The Purpose Missing Church, The Religious Wrong, Warring Memes | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

[Atheism] Probably

Posted by Lex Fear on February 15, 2009

I was really happy to see the atheist bus campaign get into full swing. God Bless those atheists, another medium for which they can use to rage against their parents.

I have purposefully held off from writing about it until now, after the dust has settled and things can be fully absorbed.

I’ll start by saying I also found myself disappointed by the weakness of the message. I would much preferred something more assertive, more disdainful of religion. Instead we get probably.

Funnily enough all sorts of speculation took place in the atheist blogosphere and fora as to why include the word. There were some rather feeble apologetics using such idioms as “intellectually honest”.

Since I had followed this saga from it’s inception and was following the commentary at The Friendly Atheist I thought I should help bring clarity to the perception of the ‘Christian response’ as well as information as to how probably got in there:

1) British Christians views on the signs range from ‘Meh’ to ‘Great! More opportunities to talk about God”.

The fact is the Christian religion is led by a man who was violently, brutally killed as a convicted criminal – Call it insane if you will but most genuine Christians see persecution in any form as a privelege and opportunity to stand with Christ and spread the gospel!

Through history, the church has done better in times of persecution and it will always.

2) There are a few who are weak in faith and perhaps new Christians, or they have lost their way and these will protest.. and when they do the media will always give them the microphone to broadcast their ignorance.

But so far the worst response I’ve heard from any Christian is that it’s silly. That’s it.

3) I personally wish that they had dropped the ‘probably’ and gone for something much stronger. I wish it DID say “THERE IS NO GOD”.. with it the slogan is very poor and really isn’t worthy to be considered an attack or something like that. (Also the excuse given to include “probably” has to be the weakest excuse I have ever heard- very stupid)

The proposer of this campaign – a Grauniad journalist – originally gave the reason that she had seen ‘probably’ used in another ad (see Carlsberg) and assumed it was for legal reasons. It’s not, it’s a nod to the British talent for understatement. Silly woman!

Must try harder.

Which was quickly refuted by a commenter called Aj:

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) advised her that “the inclusion of the word ‘probably’ makes it less likely to cause offence, and therefore be in breach of the Advertising Code.”

Lots of people are getting this wrong, so here’s a quote. Lots of atheists don’t believe “there is no god”, they can only agree with statements like “there is probably no god, although I and others prefer “almost certainly” as it’s more accurate.

He went on to include a quote from Ariane Sherine (from a later article).

There’s another reason I’m keen on the “probably”: it means the slogan is more accurate, as even though there’s no scientific evidence at all for God’s existence, it’s also impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist (or that anything doesn’t).

Oh dear, how intellectually dishonest. He left me no choice but to quote the original article by Sherine in response:

“After that, I Googled Carlsberg and found this marketing site, which suggests that using the word “probably” at the start of the ad saved Carlsberg from litigation.” – Ariane Sherine, Atheists – Gimme Five, 20/06/08

Long before the article you quoted. They’ve given all manner of excuses since then.

And the Carlsberg Ad:

http://www.brandrepublic.com/Campaign/News/472122/Scandinavia-Great-nordic-conquerors/

“According to Jakob Knudsen, Carlsberg’s international brand director: “The Scandinavian understated sense of humour is an integral part of the brand’s DNA. If you take other premium Scandinavian brands such as Bang & Olufsen, they won’t tell you they’re the best. Instead, they let the quality speak for itself.”

Only America would produce, “King of Beers” or “World’s Finest” and market their products as the biggest, best, favourite, fastest, greatest etc…

This advertising (up until recently perhaps) would never work in the UK, but picture 2 blokes in a pub, one declares “This is the best lager I’ve ever tasted!”, the other, being British is likely to respond “I don’t think so, I think I’ve tasted better.” But if the first was to casually mention “This is probably the best lager I’ve ever tasted” then the other may likely agree with him “Probably.”

Typical MSM journalist, gets her research from an internet forum rather than the source.

Oddly, no-one then seemed interesting in arguing the point with me and just ignored my second comment completely. Not what you would expect from intellectually honest people but there you go.

Here’s a great quote from Lib Dem MP, Martin Turner:

Imagine that you saw any of the following advertisements:
“The speed camera probably isn’t loaded”
“You probably won’t die in a car crash”
“You probably did turn off the gas”
Telling someone that something probably won’t happen doesn’t stop them worrying about it. Quite the contrary. And, if the millions of lottery ticket buyers are anything to go by, telling someone that something they very much hope for is unlikely to happen does nothing to stop them hoping.
If “there’s probably no God” is the strongest statement that, on reflection, atheists dare to make in public, then they have moved a long way from the certainties implied in their name.

But my favourite quote on worry has to this:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” – Jesus

As well as beating The Grauniad to the post by almost 2000 years, there’s something rather more elegant, meaningful and poetic than “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”, don’t you think (if you are being intellectually honest)?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Apologetics, Doublespeak, Doublethink, Duh!, Laymans Theology, Londonland, Minitruth, Opinion, Propaganda, Quoteyness, The Love of Libel, Uncircumcised Philistines, V for Vendetta, Warring Memes | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

[Fools And Their Money] Property Investor Mentality

Posted by Lex Fear on February 4, 2009

Bet this guy feels like a right tit now.

“The place is full with slightly mad people, to say the least. Not a dangerous kind of mad, just weird kind of mad. The fact that a crash might not occur is simply beyond their comprehension. It’s pretty odd how people can be so ignorant towards possibilities. I don’t think there will be a crash per’se, but I wouldn’t laugh or disrespect anyone who thinks there is going to be one.

How magnanimous of you. Heh. Here he is whinging about one of his tennants, something he is prone to do every now and then if you read through the archives.

Which reminds me, I just refused to pay rent rise to my landlord for the second time in 6 months. Ho hum, I guess we’ll be looking at a bigger place for the same amount of money anyway come summertime. The lettings agent is practically begging now (they’ve bolloxed all the paperwork, something tells me they stand to lose a large amount of money soon).

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Posted in Dorks, Duh!, Ha-has, Opinion, Property Market, Quoteyness, Wealth Creation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Quote/Unquote: Home Buying

Posted by Lex Fear on August 20, 2007

BBC Inside Out, 28th Feb 2005:

John Wrigglesworth, a Property Consultant, explains how the market is changing.

“The winners are those who’ve got property. Either they’ve got property or they’re buying it right now. The losers though are the people who are not in the position to buy property.”

…The message is clearly to get on the property ladder as soon as possible and keep climbing, any way you can.”

Interest Rate Feb 2005: 4.75%

The Guardian, 20th August 2007:

“Under-25s who have bought a home owe two-thirds more than tenants in the same age group, according to figures from the Consumer Credit Counselling Service. Homebuyers also accumulate several more lines of credit, said the CCCS.”

Interest Rate August 2007: 5.75%

Posted in Duh!, Property Market, Quoteyness | Leave a Comment »

HIDI: Blogger Vs WordPress (Round 2)

Posted by Lex Fear on August 4, 2007

Blogger V WordPress 2

Soon, I’ll be transferring this blog over to a wordpress account, and giving it a slightly different name, since I need Alex Fear to be a feature of Abandon All Fear rather than a predominant fixture.

As promised, here’s the HIDI (How I Did It) for transferring my other blog Dark Side of the Light from a Blogger ftp server to WordPress ftp server. Please be advised this is a general overview and assumes you already have MySQL installed on your server and are experienced in blogger and Wordpress configuration. If not, take some time going over the WordPress management interface to familiarise yourself, it only took me a couple of hours to explore how it works.

Before I Began

I backed up everything off the server locally just in case anything went wrong. I then edited my .htaccess file to include the line:

Redirect 301 /darksidelight/index.html /errors/301.html

This needs to be on a seperate line (blank line above/below) in the file to work. My 301.html file basically had a short message to say that the blog had been temporarily taken down for maintenance.

1. Switch to blogspot address

The second thing I did (but first for the purpose of this HIDI) was to go into my blog settings and switch to darksidelight.blogspot.com. The name you choose doesn’t really matter but anyone navigating to that domain will be redirected back to your ftp blog later, so it may be worthwhile putting some thought into it. Don’t just using a generic name (which will probably be taken anyway).

Although your blogger account now points at the blogspot address, the static content up to you last post will still remain on the server. Some important points:

  • Do not upgrade your blog template, I have no idea if WordPress will be able to import if you do this.

If you are transferring to a new address on your server or a new server

  • You may want to write a final post with some info and a link to the new blog address
  • There is no need to manually delete the old content on your server, in fact it’s useful if others have linked to previous posts

If you are transferring to the same address on your server

  • You should now delete or rename the directory manually on your server (I have no idea how WordPress reacts if there is already content in the directory but it’s best to assume that it may cause problems)

2. Install your WordPress ftp blog

My actual first move (second for the purpose of this HIDI) was to install wordpress on my server for a new blog at www.abandonallfear.co.uk/dark. Since I was using a different address from my old blog (www.abandonallfear.co.uk/darksidelight) I was able to do this step before I made any changes to my Blogger account (step 1).

After installing I was able to configure my user, template, plug-ins and add pages. The plug-ins were not all easy to configure, some require an API key (obtainable from your WordPress profile) and some require you to actually cut and paste the php code.

When you are happy with the configuration of your wordpress blog, it’s time to import the old blog, but you may find, as I did, that the import feature doesn’t work for blogger. I got this message:

“Howdy! This importer allows you to import posts and comments from your Old Blogger account into your WordPress blog.

Please note that this importer does not work with new Blogger (using your Google account).

Your web server is not properly configured to use this importer. Please enable the CURL extension for PHP and then reload this page.”

Well I googled for information on the CURL extension for PHP and although there is support there, I have to admit that I didn’t want to spend a lot of time learning how it works or following instructions without knowing what to do… but then, I found a dirty way of doing it…

3. The ‘dirty’ import

Even if you’re importing to a WordPress hosted blog, it won’t allow you to import from a blogger ftp account, so what you need to do is register a new account with WordPress.com and create a new blog on their hosted server. You do not need to configure this in anyway, but it’s probably worthwhile using the same login details for your ftp WordPress blog (which may come in useful if you require an API key).

Now you have your blog hosted on a blogspot domain,

  1. Import the blog into your WordPress hosted blog and set the author to your own profile.
  2. Export to a WordPress WXR file then
  3. Log in to your WordPress ftp blog and import the WXR file and viola!

4. Cleaning up

You may want to check links, rss and archives work. I discovered that all my embedded YouTube videos were gone, after a quick google there seemed to be a number of solutions offered. The first was to use a widget called Viper’s Video Quicktags, but this didn’t work for me. Then I discovered if I went and edited the original posts in the code editor (as opposed to the visual editor), recreated the embedded video link and hit ‘publish’ then the video gets published correctly. This is similar to blogger before they improved it, which would strip videos of their “<embed>” tags.

  • You should now delete your WordPress hosted blog (with all the posts you just imported to the ftp hosted blog).
  • If you used the same address as your blogger account

You obviously shouldn’t change the blogspot domain back to ftp, you may however want to keep the blogspot domain or delete it. It’s probably not worthwhile keeping since it’s a different address from the original but you may have your own reasons.

  • If you used a different address or different server

You have the option of keeping the blogspot domain, but that wouldn’t make sense for the same reasons above so you have the following options:

  • Transfer the blogspot domain back to an ftp account and keep (perhaps you might change your mind and go back to blogger)
  • Delete the blogspot domain but keep all the old static content on your server (useful for links from others)
  • Delete the blogspot and static content from your server (not advised unless you are confident and want to make a clean break)

5. Redirect (skip if you are using the same address)

Now is the time to edit your redirect and point anyone navigating to the old domain/address to the new one. For DSotL I edited as follows:

Redirect 301 /darksidelight/index.html http://www.abandonallfear.co.uk/dark/

This will ensure that all the credentials from your old blog are kept and search engine spiders will follow the redirect to your new blog address. Here is a useful redirect checker from webconfs.com:

Search Engine Friendly Redirect Check

Enter the URL whose Redirect you want to check

If you opted to keep your old blogger account either live or static, then I recommend:

  • Editing the template and replacing the title link “<$BlogURL$>” with the address of your new blog then
  • Edit the description with a line like “Click on the title to be transferred to the new blog”.

This will catch any readers that enter your site via a post rather than the main index. Of course when they click on the title they should automatically be redirected by the 301, but I discovered PHP problems reported in red, so this is another dirty fix. It’s probably down to something missing or wrong in my .htaccess file, which I should look to rectify later.

Fin

That’s it. The whole process took about 5 hours but as mentioned, 2 of those hours were spent familiarising myself with and configuring WordPress, and about 2 hours were spent researching 301 redirect and importing to WordPress.

On the whole I have to say, despite losing my blogger template, I’m happy with the new WordPress CMS and it’s features, I’m looking forward to doing this blog now.

Posted in Duh!, How I Did It, Metablog | Leave a Comment »

Survival of the Fattest

Posted by Lex Fear on August 1, 2007

The Independent reports new research that abusing overweight people may actually be an evolutionary survival response.

“Researchers say the immune system can be triggered into action at the sight of obesity because it doesn’t like the look of what it sees, and associates it with infection.

Just as it orchestrates attacks on viruses and bacteria and triggers nausea at the hint of bad food, so it sends out signals of disgust in some people at the sight of an obese body that is designed to encourage avoidance and survival.” The Independent: Why Slim People Dislike The Overweight

Wow, so bullying is actually a survival tactic? Odd survival tactic if the target is actually bigger than they are. Wouldn’t the evolutionary response be to avoid an animal that is bigger than you are? How does that survival tactic fare when the bully picks on someone who can quite literally flatten them? I remember some fat kids at my school growing up who you wouldn’t want to mess with.

Of course, if bullying survival is so important, why do we put so much effort into trying to prevent it. Why do we prosecute young people for simply doing what comes naturally? Same goes for underage reproductive sex, I don’t understand at all why the education establishment would want to prevent evolution?!

Of course it could all be entirely cultural or flawed science, but then, that wouldn’t fit with what they want to believe.

Body Image Timeline
In Praise of Big Women
One Woman, Many Cultures
The Fat Organ
Body Image and the Media

Uh Oh! My memes are warring.. Zing, zing, ouch! Which meme do I believe?

Posted in Duh!, Religion & Science, Warring Memes | 5 Comments »

Holiday Hiatus

Posted by Lex Fear on July 29, 2007

Munich (37) Alex Fear and the Mrs are officially on holiday for 2 weeks from tomorrow, so the blogging will be light. We’re actually looking for new flat to rent but we may just skip to the beach if the sun keeps (or catch a cheap ‘environMENTALly unfriendly’ flight away for a few days).

In the meantime, any time I get at the ‘puter will be devoted to testing a new CMS and thinking the best way to go about transferring this to a WordPress blog (domain name/content). Look forward to changes, and better organisation of the resources (devoted to social action etc).

In the meantime, click on one of the labels below to read through some previous topics.

Posted in Absolute Power, Apologetics, Bad Company, Bank Robbers, Copland, Copywrong, Duh!, Fallible Design, Financial Terrorism, Global Alarming, Ha-has, Housing Market Myths, Justice & Mercy, Laymans Theology, Little Hitlers, Londonland, Morals & Ethics, Opinion, Pharisees, Predatory Systems, Profiteering, Propaganda, Property Market, Realpolitik, Religion & Science, Takeback, Technology, The Love of Libel, The Purpose Missing Church, The Religious Wrong, Tick-Box Culture, Uncircumcised Philistines, V for Vendetta, Video, Wealth Creation, WhatTheyDontWantU2C, Xenophobia | Leave a Comment »

tick… tick… tick… tick… BOOM!

Posted by Lex Fear on July 22, 2007


Banks face a timebomb, but who set the timer?

Banks did when they started lending more than 3x income. It is effectively a financial suicide bomb and banks are the financial terrorists whose bomb will take out many people in one go.

I like the sound of financial terrorism, I think I’m going to make a new category.

Posted in Bank Robbers, Duh!, Financial Terrorism, Profiteering, Property Market | 3 Comments »

Bank Charges: How I Did It – From The First LBA to Post-Account Closure

Posted by Lex Fear on July 21, 2007

 Your exclusive is finally here! I’ve been waiting for the final letter from the FOS before I blogged this one walkthrough for anyone who wants to do it but is worried about the repercussions.

Previous posts on excessive bank charges here: Its Time, Banks Behaving Badly, Everyone Should Do This, The Public 1 HSBC 0, Accountability Advice, Calls to Stop Illegal Activity are Unfair
What the MSM says here: £100,000 Will Help Customers Fight Unfair Charges, Claims Cost Banks £200m, The Latest on Bank Charges, FSA Faces Calls to Take On Retail Bank Regulation
Other rages against the machine? Fight the Fear!

Before I begin I must acknowledge that this would not have been possible without the information provided by the Consumer Action Group. They were one of the first, if not the first, groups to take on bank charges and offer comprehensive advice and templates in their forums.

To be honest, I did not get a lot of responses when I posted in the forums, so instead I had to search through other users posts myself and adapt the templates to my personal situation. This does not negate the hard work the CAG put in, I just hope that by offering a full walk-through of my own experience, it saves you the time of trying to piece together different experiences. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Intro: Momma always said to save all my paperwork…

So I did. By 2006 I had suffered 3-4 years of unfair practices by the companies I banked with. The last bank I signed up with had already charged me over £400 for overdraft fees and direct debits. You see, I graduated with a Computer and Management Sciences degree in 2003, but the UK IT job market had effectively gone bust so the only job I managed to land for the first year was a customer services job answering a phone. I was not earning a graduate salary, but I had graduate size debts to pay off and was working under supervisors younger than me, who hadn’t gone to university, being paid more than me. To be honest, my bitterness was difficult to put off.

I was basically living beyond my means, and finding myself going over my overdraft limit constantly, then having to ask the bank for an extension each time so I could buy things like food. When the bank started to cut me off, I decided to switch. My credit rating was decimated so I wasn’t allowed to open another grad account, instead I had to settle for a basic. My previous bank did not like the idea of me leaving and so they switched my account from 0% interest to standard 15% interest without notice. I did not know how the law works or how it was supposed to protect people like me at the time so I didn’t do anything. I simply tried my best to pay off what I could, when I could.

Now I had my basic account, I was able to use all my wage at the end of the month, but I usually found myself with pennies left by the last week. Which meant, when an emergency came up, that tipped me over the edge and into red- for which the bank automatically slapped an extra £30 on top- thankyou very much. As the months went by, even when I managed to bring my spending back in line, an extra £30 from the previous month put the current month in the red and bang- another £30. So by the end of 3 months I could easily rack up £170 in charges (month 1= £30, month 2= £60, month 3 = £90).

So when I was finally sufficiently pissed off enough to search for some solution online- I found the CAG, and my eyes were opened. I had also been sufficiently screwed with my credit rating that I had nothing to lose- and pay attention anyone reading this who works for a bank – I was backed into a corner- when you back someone into a corner, then you leave them no option but to fight. The banks here have effectively dug their own grave by profiting off the back of the weakest in society.

Now, I had kept all my statements, so I went through them and totaled up all the charges. For those of you who don’t have your statements, you will need to file a Data Protection Act request with your bank, CAG supplies the details here. Once you have your statements, read on.

Step 1. Gimme back my money

First thing I did was take the CAG’s template and adapt it slightly for my own circumstance, then sent it to my bank.

Preliminary Letter (pdf) | (odt)

They simply ignored the letter or lost it, so after 14 days had timed out, it was time to fire a warning shot across the bow.

Step 2. Letter Before Action

Letter Before Action (pdf) | (odt)

This provoked a swift worded response 7 days later:

“I am writing in response to your recent communication and was very sorry to learn of your disappointment with the service you have received.

Thankyou for taking the time to highlight your concerns, we are currently looking into the situation and will be writing to you with a more detailed response.

In the meantime, I am enclosing a leaflet which explains the steps we will take to handle your complaint.”

Meaning, we are not going to give you back your money, however give us a bit more time to make up an excuse.

To which I sent the following reply:

Response Letter (pdf) | (odt)

I then got a second letter from the bank 11 days after that:

“Thank you for your letter dated 26 May, please may I apologise for the delay in replying.

I am unable to comply with your request to reimburse the charges applied to your account as they were debited correctly in accordance with our published charging tariff… blahcakes”

Step2A. This is where I went wrong

I had every intention of filing a claim with the Small Claims Court. But as I mentioned above, money was tight, I lived hand to mouth, and it was going to cost at least £50 to file the claim, which a the time I couldn’t afford (I had already fi
led one that month against my first bank for the overdraft change- an entirely different legal matter still with the courts).

I’m not proud of myself for it, but I just decided it could stay on the back-burner. Besides they had refunded all the charges from screwing up my account switch-over, and reinstated my direct debits.

I strongly suggest that you don’t let the initial cost of the claim deter you, but if you did fail to follow up your legal threat, read on, be encouraged.

Step 3. 9 months later

A new job, a double income and some good financial management later, I pondered the legal threat I had made 9 months ago, and whether I’d have to start fresh, or be able to pick up where I left off.

I read back through my letters, then did a quick check online and in the forums, then I thought what the heck, go for it. So here’s my second LBA, this time I was determined to follow it through, but they didn’t know that:

LBA 2007 (pdf) | (odt)

This time I got a much more detailed and wordier reply which can be downloaded below:

Bank response to LBA (pdf)

Step 4. Small claims online

Since this was a LBA, not a fresh start with a simple preliminary, I waited for the 14 days to time out and did not give the bank any further warnings before filing my claim online which came to £80.

I basically used Money Saving Experts statutory interest calculator, to calculate my total charges plus 8% interest which came to £611.24. When you file your claim online your fee will be added to this automatically (£611.24 + £80 = £691.24).

HMCS MoneyClaim is easy enough to understand and the fields hardly need explaining, just go through and fill in your details, defendants (your bank). Then you will come to the ‘Particulars of Claim’ which is the difficult part, especially since you are limited to 500 characters. Again, I took the example provided by the CAG in their template library and edited the wording slightly to fit:

Between 01/12/04 and 28/12/06 the Defendant applied numerous default charges to the Claimants bank account. The defendant contends the charges were debited in accordance with its contract with the Claimant. The charges applied are an unfair penalty under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations, which state: ‘A term is unfair if it requires any consumer who fails his obligation to pay a disproportionately high sum in compensation’.

The amount charged does not reflect the cost of the breach. The charges are an unlawful ‘extravagant’ penalty. A charge is a penalty if it does not reflect an items true cost. Under the County Courts Act 1984, the claimant is entitled to interest at a rate of 8% per annum from the date they were first deprived of the money. This totals £61.24, continuing to accrue at the statutory daily rate of 0.021% until judgment or earlier payment. The Claimant therefore asks the court to enter judgment in their favour for £550.00 plus interest, totaling £611.24.

Please note that this is an old wording and CAG currently provide a new one in their template library (registration needed) which they ask not to be printed outside of the private forum.

HMCS Claim Form (pdf)

Step 4A. Be prepared to go to court

I have published the steps I took so far, under the assumption you already have researched claiming back bank charges. If not, I should warn you before you get to this stage that if you are going to file with the small claims court you should be prepared to actually go to court. You are not defending yourself so you don’t need a solicitor or lawyer- it is the bank who decides if they want to defend themselves against your claim.

If your bank decides to defend in court, it is best to seek advice from a website such as the CAG, MoneySavingExpert or ThisIsMoney forums- don’t pay for the advice- there is no need! The charges are illegal and unfair but if you don’t state your claim properly you could end up like this man. It’s completely wrong, but remember the banks have a whole legal team working for them.

Step 5. Wait…

A few days after filing online I got a Notice of Issue through the door, it felt good to hold in my hand…

Then the next day, a short (disgruntled) note from my bank with Acknowledgement of Service. Yessssssss. This was followed by the AoS from the court. Interestingly you will note bottom left of the AoS the bank ticked “I intend to defend all of this claim”.

Acknowledgement of Service (pdf)

Step 6. Bank Owned!

Bank Settlement Letter (pdf)

£700 of my money, stolen from my account returned!

Ooh I don’t like the sound of this:

“As it is clear that you do not accept the terms and conditions for the operation of your account we will shortly be contacting you to discuss its future operation.”

Step 7. The Empire Strikes Back!

And sure enough…

1st Notice of Account Closure (pdf)

“The decision should not be regarded as an admission of liability on the part of the Company, nor should it be regarded as any sign of weakness…”

Ooh they must have taken it personally.

“Therefore as it is clear that you do not accept certain aspects of our terms and conditions for the operation of your account we regret that we are unable to continue to offer you banking facilities…”

Err… which certain aspects of the T&Cs were those… the ones that were unlawful? The ones you were unwilling to defend in court?

Of course it was an attempt to piss on my victory parade, and if I’m honest I was not only annoyed but slightly nervous. The last account switch-over didn’t go to well (see above) and I actually did get good service from A&L.

A brief check in the CAG forums and other online places only seemed to return results for people going through a similar thing, but no resolution or some brief mentions but no details.. how.. what.. when?

Step 7A. Pulling the cord

Most guides you read will advise you on the first step to open your parachute account. I haven’t mentioned this yet because I still had my f
ormer account with HSBC which was currently dormant, so I knew I’d be able to do a quick transfer myself into it.

Nevertheless, I had got my first taste of blood, I wasn’t going to let them get away with retaliation and forcing inconvenience and further stress on my person.

Step 8. Go ahead, bank, make my day

I wrote a strongly worded letter right back to them asking things like: “If you felt that your charges were ‘fair’ and not unlawful, why did you offer full payment and not proceed to defend them in a court of law and prove my particular case wrong?”

I then mentioned I’d spoken to someone in customer services who had confirmed that other customers were having their accounts closed after claiming back charges. This was true, and it was important for establishing it as a retaliatory measure, not just a vague “breakdown of the relationship”.

Finally I used some of my own initiative and creativity to issue a further warning about closing my account:

If you go ahead with the closure of my account I will be forced to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service myself and be claiming further compensation. I take this opportunity to remind you the FOS is ruling in favour of customers who have had accounts closed in retaliation for claiming back charges. (See attached adjudications ‘Mr A’ and ‘Mr L’).

In order to make my point, I enclosed print-outs of an article from ThisIsMoney and both adjudications from the FOS website. I did this to make it clear I knew my favourable legal standing.

Warning Letter on Account Closure (pdf) | (odt)

You will be advised that it is the banks discretion who they do business with, so even if they are wrong to close an account, it can’t be stopped in anyway legally.

The bank did take notice of this letter. I received a shortly drafted letter from them advising they were “currently looking into the issue you have raised and will let you have our response as soon as possible.”

I then got another letter 7 days after that to advise that “the issue you have raised concerning the closure of your account has been forwarded to the relevant department who will contact you direct.” That got their attention didn’t it?

Step 9. We’re gonna do it anyway and risk the consequences…

… because it’s all about risk isn’t it? If we keep this customer, we can’t make any money off him anymore, if we close the account, we’ll only lose a couple of hundred pounds.. you do the math.

2nd Notice of Account Closure (pdf)

But they extended the the closure date… can’t really think why, they already decided they were going to close it. I suppose they expect I should be thankful for this gesture?

So I get online and transfer all my standing orders over from one account to the other. Let the HR girl know at work (thankfully I work in a small company), and write a letter to companies I direct debit. Those I missed, got in touch with me- Ha!

Step 10. The last laugh

Next stop FOS website to download their complaint form. It took about 15-20 minutes to complete. Mostly cut-paste-edit job and photocopying a bunch of letters. Print then send.

Had a response by 12th June from the FOS:

“Thankyou for sending your complaint form. Unfortunately, I have to return this as you need to sign it.”

DOH!

2nd Response from the FOS (pdf)

The 3rd response from the FOS on 16th July  was just to inform me of the guy who had my case dumped on him, and to inform me they have a heavy workload so it may be sometime before they can progress my case.

Well, I think they’re doing a great job BTW but I immediately had an idea of how they could reduce their workload. Stop writing letters to inform clients you have a heavy workload! I think that will probably reduce it by a quarter at least.

banker4th Response from the FOS – The Gold! (pdf)

“A&L has now told us it would be prepared to pay £200 compensation to cover the distress and inconvenience the closure of your account may have caused…”

-///-

And that folks, is how I did it, it only took me 12 months, but I did have a rather long and unadvised break in between. Like a surgical procedure, unpleasant, but you get to take time off afterwards and eat cookies. Anyone can do it.

Posted in Bad Company, Bank Robbers, Duh!, How I Did It, Morals & Ethics, Profiteering, Takeback, WhatTheyDontWantU2C | Leave a Comment »