Abandon All Fear

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Archive for the ‘How I Did It’ Category

[Misdirection] Becoming Aware

Posted by Lex Fear on October 23, 2008

I have often wondered why it is that people, Londoners in particular, ignore or avoid the easiest and most efficient ways of doing things. Instead wander around on some kind of autopilot for the most part, only to ‘sync up’ when other members of the herd are in proximity and become one giant retard.

Why, for example, when exiting the tube, flock towards the nearest ticket gate along with 300 other people, when simply going a few steps out of your way to the end gate takes you out of the jostling crowd and out of the station faster?
Why bump into or brush past someone on an empty pavement and stand within a foot of someone on an spacious platform (Londoners especially)?
Why be extra careful to drive at 29mph in a 30 zone, but not use your indicators, or observing other road users when turning?
Why lie for a mortgage you can’t afford, for an overpriced property, instead of questioning the price and value? Why do people want low interest rates and high property prices at all?
Why do company drivers lose their job for causing death by dangerous or careless driving, but not one Met officer loses their job for causing death by whatever excuse they are giving this month?
Why do people using a car park wait for someone to load their shopping and reverse out of a space near the exit, whilst I drive past, park in an empty space and am practically out of the exit before they’ve removed their seat belts?
Why do people in the UK still pay for a television license when it is not enforced (run by private contractors with no police or court powers)?
Why pay for an expensive operating system and anti-virus solution, when their are better free and open-source solutions for both online and to order?
Why, of all newspapers, is The Sun so obsessed with sex crimes and sexual deviants?
Why is Gordon Brown now hailed a hero for not-yet-even-saving an economy that he allowed everyone and their dog to rape and pillage till it was destitute?

I’m not asking these questions for specific answers, in most cases the answer is obvious… the point of my rhetoric is to question everything and take nothing at face-value. Which leads me onto the thing which inspired this post…

Ironically enough TfL have released a video under a new initiative for road safety. Ironic because they’re practically showing their own hand when it comes to how they form policy.

Watch and see…

It’s funny yes, and I have to admit, I didn’t see it coming either, but it does help to sharpen your senses.

So, do you trust your own eyes to see what is happening in the environment around you? Do you believe what you read because it is in black and white?

Here’s a little exercise, next time you are watching the news, reading the paper or out and about, try to read between the lines, try to deduct what is not being said and study the environment around you to see what is taking place.

You might just find yourself first in line or on a more pleasant journey because you were not willing to be treated like cattle.

HT: Neil Herron

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Posted in Absolute Power, Civil Disobedience, How I Did It, Londonland, Video, WhatTheyDontWantU2C | Leave a Comment »

Hidden Fees

Posted by Lex Fear on April 5, 2008

I received an email a while ago from Sue Craig of not-for-profit Hidden Fees requesting a link to their site providing genuine, free advice on avoiding hidden fees.

The site looks promising and contains many articles. I thought it was a great idea and have now added a link on the blogroll. I wrote back to Sue and advised that it needed some guides and template letters to make it really useful and she wrote back to thank me and advise it “should be on the site in the next month or so [emailed 5 Apr 08]”. For now you’ll have to have a bit of time on your hands to navigate and read the detailed but useful articles.

One thing that did concern me was their archaic and heavy-handed IP & Copyright Notice which surprises me coming from a site that purports to be helping people avoid fees and such:

Except as permitted below no part of the Website may be reproduced, displayed, copied, translated, adapted, downloaded, broadcast, used or republished in any form including (without limitation) distribution, or storage in a system for retrieval.

Considering the service they are offering it’s forgivable, but I would hope as they progress they change this not to be so drastic. Technically speaking your webpages are already downloaded and stored in the cache (physically on the hard drive) of anyone who visits the site to read the information from a library or shared computer (read ‘public’) then they are already breaking your copyright notice.

It’s something I’m willing to overlook in linking to Hidden Fees but it’s something worth bearing in mind when considering the target audience- people who seek to avoid or fight predatory and subversive systems. People who read software EULAs and seriously consider open-source. People who don’t like signing unfair contracts.

Posted in Bad Company, Bank Robbers, Blogidarity, Copywrong, Financial Terrorism, How I Did It, Opinion, Predatory Systems, Profiteering, Wealth Creation | Leave a Comment »

More On WordPress

Posted by Lex Fear on August 31, 2007

I admit it, it’s taken me longer to get used to WordPress than I first thought. I still haven’t got round to replicating my blogroll or doing the resource stuff! But don’t delink me yet, it will come!

I went with Lyc0s’s installation of WordPress, which should automatically update you when a new version is ready but I’m stuck with 2.1.x and the latest version is 2.2.x. I discovered this because I have been struggling with widgets since transferring and only just realised I could download the ‘Widgets’ extension itself for backwards compatibility with blogs older than 2.2.x.

This makes it a lot easier than doing the hard coding (you will have noticed the effects of my manual widgetizing if you came by at the wrong time). Fortunately I have also discovered this slick admin extension that allows me to put up a maintenance page for the site- no more splattered code for you guys.

In other Meta, it looks like my controversial subject matter has finally paid off and my ship has come in. I recieved an email from someone at DIMACC with a proposal to buy advertising space on the blog. Before anyone starts, I’ve never been against blog advertising, after all I pay to host this website and I’ve been wanting to find some way to subsidize it for a while.

Neither do I feel like I’ve sold out, I used Adsense when I first started, but it just didn’t pay.
I’ve been asked to place 5 individual advertisements for some older posts, hopefully, if they do well then perhaps I’ll get more. The great thing is they are textual, there’s no links that would cause me to feel pharisaic and, most importantly I have been offered a decent upfront fee!

Posted in How I Did It, Metablog, Morals & Ethics, Pharisees, Profiteering | 15 Comments »

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.


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 »

HIDI: Blogger Vs WordPress (Round 1)

Posted by Lex Fear on August 2, 2007

Blogger V WordPress 

EDIT: Table has been reduced for smaller screen resolution. Thanks for the tip, Cecilieux!

I have just finished transferring my other blog Dark Side of the Light from Blogger to WordPress. I’ve also created a 301 redirect so that anyone navigating to the old address will be automatically redirected to the new. The transition was smooth enough but there are a number of modifications needed before Wordpress takes. So typically I’ve decided to offer a HIDI (how I did it) to my loyal readers.

Old Blogger uses a combination of CSS and HTML, new Blogger functions on an XHTML template and WordPress utilises PHP on a MySQL db back-end. Fortunately, WordPress did the translation work for me, but I did lose DSotL template, which needs to be re-written in PHP if I want to restore it.

There are a number of differences between running a Blogspot, WordPress or hosted domain (like Abandon All Fear). I’ve compiled a list of pro’s and con’s I have observed below:

Blogspot (new Blogger)

FTP/Hosted (old Blogger)


  • Free
  • Customizable widgets
  • Customizable template
  • Layout editor
  • Upload and save templates
  • Multiple blog hosting (no limit?)
  • Image upload (no limit?)
  • Video embedding
  • Easy switch between blogspot and host
  • Multiple contributors


  • Customizable template
  • Easy to customise HTML and CSS (copy and paste template)
  • Blog is still stored on Blogger server (posts and template) effectively acting as a backup (if lost on host)
  • Own domain name
  • Easy switch between blogspot and host
  • Multiple contributors


  • blogspot.com domain
  • Knowledge of strict XHTML a must to add any complex mods outside of layout editor
  • Single user login linked to Google account
  • Limited set of options for contributors


  • No widgets
  • Knowledge of HTML and CSS needed to change layout
  • Single user login linked to Google account
  • Images, video and blogs unlimited but confined to host server limits
  • Limited set of options for contributors



FTP/Hosted (WordPress)


  • Free
  • Many customizable widgets
  • Control and edit comments
  • Add pages
  • Detailed management interface, similar to CMS
  • Multiple blogs possible
  • Set multiple security levels for subscribers/contributors
  • Import variety of blog types (including new Blogger)
  • Export blog to a file (for backup/import)
  • Multiple user login for non-linked blogs
  • Layout editor


  • Many customizable widgets
  • Control and edit comments
  • Add pages
  • Detailed management interface, similar to CMS
  • Multiple blogs possible
  • Set multiple security levels for subscribers/contributors
  • Import from variety of blog types
  • Export blog to a file (for backup/import)
  • Multiple user login for non-linked blogs
  • Customizable template
  • Own domain name
  • Unlimited image/video upload (but confined to host limits)
  • Large selection of standard templates


  • Cannot freely customise template (small charge)
  • wordpress.com domain
  • Limited 50mb image and video upload
  • Small selection of standard templates provided
  • Will not import Blogger hosted
  • Bug causes problems displaying embedded video


  • Knowledge of PHP needed for template modification
  • Will not import blogger hosted
  • Knowledge of MySQL db needed for non-standard blog management/imports
  • Copy of posts/comments are not stored on WordPress server
  • Bug causes problems displaying embedded video
  • Widgets may need to be coded in manually

Looking at the comparison tables WordPress seems to come out on top, however I would still choose a Blogspot or ftp Blogger over the free WordPress blog any day. It’s all about the functionality you want. When you consider a free WordPress blog does not let you customise the template, limits on uploads and bugs it’s just not worth it. Blogspot may not have all the content management functionality of WordPress, but it does allow you to change the template as you wish with a bit of knowledge of XHTML. It’s simple and easy to manage and without limits to the content you want to create.

I like ftp Blogger for the fact that I can delete the blog from Blogger’s servers but it will keep all the content on your ftp sever accessible (for example if you want to end a blog but keep it available for reference). Having a good knowledge of CSS and HTML I can control the look of the blog and add/remove structure and ‘widget’s as I wish by going into the template editor. It’s also easy to switch from your own ftp domain to a blogspot domain and back again. I’ve also noticed that after doing this, your blogspot domain name automatically redirects to your own ftp hosted blog, eg. darksidelight.blogspot.com redirects to www.abandonallfear.co.uk/darksidelight.

A hosted WordPress blog however does manage to kick ass against Blogger hosted. Sure you don’t get a backdoor backup from WordPress (you can still manually export the blog), you don’t get to easily switch from your own domain to a hosted blog and the widgets are not easily added but the functionality on offer along with content management simply can’t be beaten.

In the next post, I’ll go into the HIDI walkthrough…

Posted in Blogidarity, How I Did It, Metablog | 1 Comment »

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.”


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 »

[Resistance] How To Respond To TV Licensing Threats

Posted by Lex Fear on May 29, 2007

This Post Is Rated: C for Controversial. Contains references to government enabled thuggery no less.

A while ago Neil Herron posted an excellent response he had sent to TVL Enforcement:

“Despite a call to your 0870 number, I continue to receive threatening letters from yourselves.

Therefore, as I have replied to you, and requested the attendance of one of your authorised officers at a mutually convenient time in order to be interviewed in compliance with the Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984, I consider any further intimidatory letters or implied threats as harassment.” – Neil Herron

I do not believe in TV Licensing. There are few countries in the world today that force their citizens to pay for a telecommunications licence. The people of New Zealand are the most recent example of a nation successfully rising up to challenge and overturn their draconian licencing laws. I would encourage people here to also protest and write to their MPs.

There are also countries who have proved that public service television can be successful without licensing. Canada, for example does not require you to own a licence to view public service television. There are only two channels available for free, then you purchase cable for the rest.

Usually when it comes to licensing the BBC, the counter-argument always presented usually follows the lines of how the BBC can afford to take risks, we wouldn’t get the quality programming if it wasn’t funded by the licence and it allows the BBC to remain impartial. Bullshit. ITV, Channel 4 and even Channel 5 are now able to compete with substantial quality programming at no cost to the tax payer.

But there is a more sinister work afoot with TV Licensing, and that is the subcontracting of the work to a firm called Capita which also run things like the Criminal Records Bureau, Congestion Charging and Council Tax. If you are not concerned yet, you should be. At this rate, 20 years from now Capita will be monitoring your every move in our increasingly Orwellian society.

With regards to TV Licensing, Capita’s method of enforcement appears to be:

  1. Send warning letter to ANY household not currently registered with a licence on our database (yes that means people without TVs included).
  2. Send threatening letter to ANY household that has not yet paid up (regardless of electronics owning status).
  3. Send a different version of threatening letter from step 2. Use lots of RED BOLD FONT.
  5. Wait 3 months.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5.

Anyone who has moved home or been a student will probably recognise one or more of the TVL letters mentioned above. We recently received all of these letters twice over when we first moved into our flat in London, before we had our TV setup. They seem to have been sending them since the last tenant left, whilst no-one was living there, until we arrived.

When we finally got the TV setup and grudgingly paid for our licence, surprise! We were still receiving these threatening letters! It got to Step 4 twice, and yet, no enforcement official (which I was looking forward to). Why?

The answer dear readers is simple. They seem to have little enforcement on the ground, though this is hard to determine, since they have not really been forthcoming with the FOI requests (read the pdfs). It is reported that even their detection equipment is not nearly as good as they make out.

So what to do with these threats and harrassments from the TVL? I would not encourage anyone to break the law, but let’s just say if they ever turn up at my doorstep, regardless of whether I have a TV and licence or not, I would tell them in polite and no uncertain terms to f*** off and get a warrant.

If you you need a little more detail than that, here’s a short guide:

  1. Ignore the threat letters, read others’ personal accounts, opinions and check the forums
  2. Read one persons experience of their rhetorical threats.
  3. You are worried, are they coming for you? BBC Resistance has all the answers. Take your time over the material there, enjoy.
  4. Fed up of their hateful, empty threats? Write a ‘cease and desist’ letter revoking their ‘implied right of access’ (also see Neil Herron link above).
  5. On the event that an enforcement clown officer shows up at your door, you have a right to refuse entry unless they have a warrant. They most definitely won’t have a warrant if it’s the first visit. Only a court can issue a search warrant on reasonable ground to suspect you have a TV. This means they have to apply individually for every innocent person they harass.
  6. In the highly unlikely event they obtain a warrant, they will most likely want to interview you under caution. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SAY ANYTHING. However, be not afraid. Know this: They only want your money. I cannot find the source but did I read a post for the job of TV Licence Enforcement Officer on a jobsite a long time ago. It was a “day in the life of” in which the officer explained he would try to sell a licence to the person he had interviewed. This is what they will probably try to do. (If I find the link I will post it).
  7. Protest and resist. It is completely immoral and possibly unlawful to send out letters randomly to anyone who does not own a licence. This is an assumption of guilt and requires the recipient to prove their innocence.

It’s time the UK caught up with the 21st Century and realise that not everything can or should be taxed.

Posted in Absolute Power, Bad Company, Bank Robbers, How I Did It, Little Hitlers, Morals & Ethics, Non-Compliance, Predatory Systems, Profiteering, Protest, Wealth Creation, WhatTheyDontWantU2C | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

[Free At Last] Going Open Source

Posted by Lex Fear on April 28, 2007

So I finally found the nerve to uninstall MS Office 2000, which I have faithfully relied upon for 5 years for my letters, spreadsheets and database needs. I’ve never really had the money to keep current with MS Office versions, and never really had the need either, but Office has now moved on a bit, it was crunch time.

Lately I’ve been on a sharp Unix learning curve, for work, which inspired me to install Linux on my ‘puter duel booted with Windows XP. Later I decided to revamp an old laptop with Linux and it’s worked quite well. It was during this I discovered the beauty that is Open Source (free). I also came across OpenOffice.org.

I have now decided to become an Open Source Evangelist and broadcast the deep joy in my heart that it has brought. For almost every copy of proprietary software out there, there is an open source alternative, so I’ve decided to list a few that I have been using for a couple of months now. I can say, with the exception of being on a Vista operating system, I am probably using 60% Open Source software. I encourage you to join the revolution:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Anecdotes, How I Did It, Open Source, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

[Payback] I Won Against Parking Injustice

Posted by Lex Fear on December 3, 2006

You win some, you lose some. Back in October I blogged about how time constraints forced me to give up and pay the £45 bribe parking fine the police were demanding. I paid as the date they were asking me to appear in court I was due to be on a beach somewhere in Maui.

So you will either be pleased or outraged to know that 2 other outstanding Council Parking Fines (PCNs) were cancelled this month. I have had many hits for people googling “Parking Fine Template Letter” and “Get Off Parking Fine”. Now, let me make it clear there is no such letter and there is no such loopholes in the law. There is however, The Law and the Constitutional Bill of Rights Act 1688 which states:

“That all Grants and Promises of Fines and Forfeitures of particular persons before Conviction are illegal and void.”

This is a Constitutional Act, that means it cannot be overruled by a later by an ‘ordinary’ Act such as the Road Traffic Act 1991. Below is an edited version of the letter I wrote to Coventry City Council. The photos I included showed different angles of the road where the lines were almost entirely worn out. This is not a template letter, however, I hope you may find it useful in constructing your own defence. If you are going to defend against a parking ticket you may want to check out Pepipoo forums.

Coventry City Council Parking Services Unit
PO Box 3943

Re: Penalty Charge Notices: 00XXXXXX / CV00XXXXXX

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to appeal against the Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), on the grounds that the offence did not occur. The enclosed images are taken of the road where I was parked on these occasions, on the corner of XXXXXX Road, outside of the residents bay, outside the [Landmark] and [Landmark]. Specifically, the restriction is not signed as prescribed by the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 (the TSRGDs). References in this representation to Road Markings refer to that statutory instrument (2002/3113).


1) The signing/road marking is non-prescribed, as road markings must conform to the enclosed diagram (Schedule 6 Road Markings). The road markings numbered 1017/1018.1 are continuous lines terminating with T-Bars. Particular attention is drawn to item 4, Permitted Variants: None. The road markings in the restricted area are not continuous, or visible and do not have the required T-Bar endings, therefore varying from the prescribed regulation.

From the photographs, there are no single or double yellow lines apart from some double yellow lines leading from the edge of the entrance to the [Landmark] to the corner before the drain. A closer inspection reveals that there are indeed some light faded patches of yellow on the road where I was parked, directly outside of [Landmark].

Since the road markings are not in conformity with the regulations then there can have been no contravention. This is clear form the court decisions of MacLeod v Hamilton (1965) S.L.T 305 and the PATAS Adjudicator decision in Cooper v Richmond (as reported on 18/07/00).

I also refer to legal authorities:
MacLeod v Hamilton 1965 S.L.T 305
If signs to indicate the effect of a “No Waiting” order have not been erected, or signs have been erected not conforming to s.64 of the RTRA 1984 and TSRGD 2002 (SI 2002/3113), no offence against the “No Waiting” order is committed.

Davies v Heatley [1971] R.T.R 145
Because by s.64 (2) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 traffic signs shall be of the size, colour and type prescribed by regulation, if a sign the contravention of which is an offence contrary to s.36 is not as prescribed by the regulation, no offence is committed if the sign is contravened, even if the sign is clearly recognisable to a reasonable man as a sign of that kind.

2) Both of the PCNs issued fail to comply with Section 66(3) of the Road Traffic Act 1991 by not including a date of issue. This renders them void and unenforceable. See MacArthur v Bury (NPAS Circular 04/05) Case Number BC188 NPAS the Adjudicator decided that to comply with Section 66(3) a PCN must have a date. The date of the contravention is not the date of issue even if, in most cases, the PCN will be issued on the same day as the contravention. A real possibility of prejudice arises from potential uncertainty as to when the 28 day and 14 day periods for payment begin and end. Coventry City Councils PCNs do not have a date of issue (see enclosed).

3) Not withstanding the above, the appellant submits that Coventry City Council is attempting to extort money in an unlawful manner.

Please find enclosed an extract of the Bill of Rights Act 1689, enacted and formally entered into Statute following the Declaration of Rights 1689. I draw your attention to the section that I have highlighted:

“That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void”.

This states that a conviction is necessary before a fine can be imposed. As you will be aware, the Bill of Rights is a “constitutional statue” and may not be impliedly repealed. As stated in the ‘Metric Martyrs’ Judgment in the Divisional Court (18th February 2002) by Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Crane (I will paraphrase, but have included a copy of the judgment’s relevant sections 62 and 63):

62.”We should recognise a hierarchy of Acts of Parliament: as it were ‘ordinary’ statutes and ‘constitutional statutes.’ The special status of constitutional statutes follows the special status of constitutional rights. Examples are the … Bill of Rights 1689 …

63. Ordinary statutes may be impliedly repealed. Constitutional statutes may not…”

I am not aware that the Road Traffic Act 1991 makes express reference to repealing the Bill of Rights Act 1689.

Therefore, it would appear that Coventry City Council have no lawful authority to demand money for any alleged offence until or unless it has been dealt with by a Court of Law. Consequently, the forfeit that you have demanded of me is illegal and void. As I am sure you will understand, I cannot knowingly involve myself in an illegal act and accordingly decline payment of this fine.

Yours faithfully,

A Fear
Registered Keeper XXXX XXX

2. Extract of the Bill of Rights Act 1689
3. Extract of Metric Martyrs Judgment, Sections 62 and 63. 4. Photographs taken at time of alleged offence.

I must warn you I am no lawyer and by taking any advice on this blog you are solely responsible for any consequences of actions based upon this information.

That said, I wish you every success in sticking it to ’em.

Posted in Anecdotes, Civil Disobedience, Financial Terrorism, How I Did It, Justice & Mercy, Predatory Systems, Takeback, Uncircumcised Philistines, WhatTheyDontWantU2C | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »