The web should be a place to share information, so here are some of my experiences with companies that I have dealt with. No threatening solicitors letters please, it's all true...

The good

Credit Agricole

English contact page

Opening a bank account in France seems to be a bit of a lottery. The BNP paribas claim to understand the issues that foreigners have trying to open an account in France, but the branch in Sophia Antipolis didn't try very hard to impress me at all. It was up to me to jump through the hoops they chose to present. For example, they require a reference from my bank, but it has to have my UK address on the same page. A covering letter addressed to me was of no interest to them. After a post to TMF, and a confirmation that BNP are not easy to deal with, I emailed the CA international branch. 26 hours later, I have an account - and note this started with me sending an email to their website, not well known as the fastest way of contacting a bank!

Mobil-one used to be here - but it seems they've decided to take the money and run

Some links - I've tried to be selective with these, and hide them away so you only find them if you look for them

Cheap Car Hire From 12
Essential Travel - discount online travel insurance
Save on your holiday car hire with First Choice Car Hire - get an instant quote now!
For great deals visit the low cost car hire specialist
You have given chocolates before, just never like this! Reverie

It might not be as nice a place as it looks, but everyone should know about ebay sooner or later!

Register on!
Items I'm selling on ebay
Click here to learn more
The phone spot will spam you... so they got dropped as an advertiser. -
Stay in London from only 45 per room per night
Click Here For Amazing Offers
Excel Airways:
40 Summer destinations from 49 return
TransFlash Mobile Phone Memory From 14.99 Digital Camera Memory | Mobile Phone Memory
PriceRuner: Compare before you shop
The Crucial Memory Advisor Tool takes the guesswork out of upgrading.
Looking for the perfect wine for that special meal? Why not visit ChateauOnline?! ChateauOnline-Europes leading online wine merchant
Click here for a FREE 7-day Trial of Napster Download Shed-Loads of tracks on Napster

The bad

ONSPEED Well, technically it works. I'm on dial-up at the moment, 10x improvement in upstream bandwidth, 7x for text and 2-3x for graphics (even at the better, but not highest setting). Sadly the install process is so painfull that I can't consider inflicting it on anyone.

WIBO Electric Heating Systems

I've just had a leaflet thro the door offering 'Electrical slimline conservation heating systems. No specifics, and no website. I live in a vilage with no gas, and a large number of elderly residents...

This Forum has a few vague comments, but clearly any electric heating system which does not use off-peak electricity will be expensive to run, and there is no point im trying to make comparisons in terms of efficiency, since all electric systems (except heat pumps) are equally efficient. Just buy a few fan heaters, and if you're bothered, get one with an accurate thermostat ahnd time control

PC World Business

Well, you might have thought that I'd never end up dealing with PC world, or any other part of the Dixons group, but after my Libretto bit burgled, my household insurance decided to replace it with a JVC mini notebook, which they sourced from PC World Direct.

Nice laptop, but DOA. Charged it up, turned it on, and it clicks a couple of times then nothing. Fairly clear that it's faulty. Phone for a returns number. 2pm - 'We'll get someone technical to phone and confirm it's broken'. 5pm - Engineer calls, 2 minutes to confirm it's dead, they'll phone me back to arrange replacement. 19 hours later, I call again to demand a returns number... 'We'll send an engineer out to confirm it's DOA...'. 2pm 'Can I fax you a form so we can charge you 40 if it's not broken'... 3:41pm - still no sign of the fax.

Mobil One

Sim only phone contract, with the monthly line rental paid back by direct debt, using the operator's new phone subsidy. The only problem is that as of late last year, they have stopped paying the rebate! DO not touch this company with a barge-pole!

PC World

PC world seem to think that there is no problem advertising one set of prices online, and then charging a different set of prices in-store. They seem to think that their website does not constitute an advert to purchase goods in their shops

Dear Mr Houlihane

Thank you for your e-mail.

There is a price difference between the Internet site and our High St
stores, and the prices listed are for internet purchases only.

This is because the stores have overheads above that of the on-line

Manufacturers make our Head office aware of decisions regarding which
to be offered via store or Internet. We have no control over these prices.

I understand that this may not be the answer you were looking for however
I hope this clarifies the Company's position regarding this matter.

Kindest Regards

Johnathan Adams
Customer Services
Dixons Stores Group on 09/06/2003 10:50:48

To:   Customer Services/Dixons@Dixons, cc: Subject:  P-JA-00011030-01
Misleading advertising


On Sunday, I checked some prices online, and decided that the
prices offered by PC World were competitive for the product I was
interested in. There was no indication for the actual products I was
looking at that there was any difference between PC World's web
site, and their stores. The website has a store finder section, which
re-enforced my belief that I would be able to purchase the same items in
store for the same price as I would be able to on the web.

When I visited a store, I was shocked to discover that there were
significant differences in prices between the web and the store. This
price differential was at least 20%. When I questioned an assistant in the
store I was told that the website which was trading under the same brand
name was a competely different operation, and that there was no reason for
the stores to charge the same prices.

I believe that this is illegal under the regulations governing advertising
prices, in that I was lured into the store, having checked the price that
I expected to pay in advance, and was then expected to pay significantly
more, when I believed I was intending to make a purchase from the same

Please can you advise me of how I can pursue this further?


Sean Houlihane,

Well, not a surprise really we know that they hate loosing customers. So, when I fax them with a disconnection request I don't really expect them to take any notice (18/2/02)

As expected, 2 copies of a form letter were sent on 22/2/02, saying Unfortunatly, we can't act on your request without the signature of the account holder who is responsable for the above mobile number They ask me to fill in the enclosed form (what form?) and also add At Vodafone, we are working hard to improve our service, and I hope we get the opportunity to demonstrate this to you.

Whilst stating the obvious, I am actually the account holder for the accounts that I asked them to close, using what is accepted as a legal method of delivering notice!

Today (4/3/02), I phoned their national rate customer service line to politely enquire what the **** they were playing at. Snippets from the ensuing conversation include

Needless to say, there has been no call in the past 2 hours, but one of my direct debts has been cancelled. Another fax has been sent, and I'm eargerly awaiting the next installment.

British Gas (or 'house' as they seem to think they are now)

Once upon a time, I found out that it was possible to read my gas bill on-line. Being an occasional geek, I thought this might be quite a fun thing to do. It might also mean that I could avoid having to post my meter readings.

Other than being of very limited use, this went well...

7th Nov. 2001. - My hotmail account receives an email from with a subject of 'Your bill/statement is available to view online'. As I was in an inquisitive frame of mind, I decided to read this, even though it looked like spam. In fact, it was British Gas, telling me that my gas bill had been updated.

I wrote to Centrica, or whatever their real name is now, explaining that their marketing efforts were particularly un-impressive, as they were now looking like an estate agent. Their reply was:

Dear Mr Houlihane

Thank you for your email received 7 November 2001.

I am very sorry for any confusion that has been caused by the receipt of our
standard email confirming your bill is available to view online.  Please
accept my apologies for any inconvenience this has caused.

We have recently launched our new website which replaces With this new service you can search for a tradesman, get diy
tips from Handy Andy, organise your home insurance, look for a new home and
transfer your account when moving home.

All this and more is now available brought to you by British Gas, as well as
the Pay View and Amend service for your gas and electric, and home/mobile
telephone bills.

I hope this information proves helpful and hope you visit us again soon.

Kind Regards

Helen Bater Customer Services

A complete lack of understanding! If I want to buy something, I go looking for it. If companies try and sell me something, I'll try and buy it from someone else!


After some confusion with my password, and deciding that the web site was too overloaded to be reliable, I emailed egg to close my account. About a month later, I cancelled the direct debt, which got their attention, and they agreed to close the account for me. Several years later, I am still getting emails to tell me that my statement is available on-line.

If you want to trust your money to a system like this, that's your lookout!

Update March 2000. I am still receiving emails from egg, despite occasionally replying to them, even though the accout was closed over 3 years ago now.


I had thought that nationwide were pretty good, untill I managed to miss a payment on my mortage.

When Nationwide aggreed to transfer all my direct debts from one nationwide bank account to another, they managed to loose my mortgage transfer. Fine, they wrote to me explaining that the transfer had not gone through, and requested a cheque.

I sent a cheque, and a letter asking for the transfer to be reinstated

They sent me a letter asking for payment of the following month, and a form

I sent back the form, with a cheque.

All goes quiet for a few months

Mid December, a letter arrives explaining that I am 2 months in arrears, and that I have 5 days to pay up. No mention of what payments have been received recently, no mention of wether December's payment is included, and no mention of the absence of a regular payment arrangement.

On phoning, with my extremely displeased voice on, I am told that the payment for August still has not been received, and that withing 5 days, I actually need to make 3 months worth of payments. Fortunatly, I can do this. (just!)

Not only have they screwed up the paperwork, but by 'ignoring' the fact that I was never more than one month overdue (I actually overpayed the first couple of payments to try and avoid interest piling up) they have arranged for me to become in a situation that a lot of people would struggle to pay off. They require me to have an automatic transfer set up, but didn't ever seem to concerned that it was broken.

I await their response

Teversham Motors

I have been re-building a mini for about 3 years. I've spent hundreds of hours, and probably over 1000 on it. I took it for an MOT just before christmas, but after I left it there, I was told that it wasn't running well enough, so I asked them to have a look at it. Not too surprised, but I wanted to know everything that still needed fixing.

Some time later, I got a call saying it had a broken piston ring (i.e. complete engine strip-down, and some fairly expensive parts)

I went to pick it up, and they explained that they'd cleaned the plugs, started it up and found one of the plugs fouled. They declared the car 'not worth fixing'

Before taking the engine out, I posted a query on the mini-list, and also did a compression test. All 4 cylinders were 12 bar (i.e. very good) and also, all 4 plugs were black, and not oily.

Another clue was that after a 1 mile drive the car refused to start when it was warm (after it had been messed with). This I diagnosed as being due to an over-rich mixture. Maybe related to being 'tuned' whilst very cold.

Since the piston rings looked good, from the compression test, I bought a colour tune kit. This lets you see into the combustion chamber, and showed that all 4 cylinders were mis-firing even with the right mixture. There were sparks though.

The saga continues, but I would have thought that a garage could diagnose a broken piston ring on one of the country's most popular cars!

The problem?

I now believe that the problem is a faulty float-chamber valve, resulting in petrol being pumped straight through the carb, into the engine. This makes it run extremely rich, most of the time.

Just testing...

Home Copyright Sean Houlihane, 2001,2002 Last modified: Tue Oct 24 20:32:32 W. Europe Daylight Time 2006