Fake regulatory authorities still betraying consumers

Grainne was on Liveline during the week telling the nation how she felt ripped off by a company that placed a limit on the life of her gift voucher.

She had a voucher worth €200 for a sky dive but because of bad weather there were several cancellations. Eventually, the company told her that she would have to pay a further €120 if she wanted to do the jump. It was all legal, all in the small print, she had no comeback.

For decades gift voucher scams have been endlessly discussed on shows like Liveline but nothing is ever done.

And nothing is done because all our so-called ‘regulatory authorities’ are fake. They are not set up to actually enforce the law but rather to give an impression of law enforcement. (See Irish cowboy town and fake regulatory agencies)

The fake authority in this case is the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC). There seems to be an inverse law that the more useless a regulatory body is the more cumbersome its title. It’s as if the organisation is trying to compensate for its complete lack of effectiveness with a long fancy title.

The CCPC also has a complex structure (again, it must be complex to impress and allow for buck passing) including an executive chairperson assisted by no less than four commissioners. All, no doubt on high salaries and generous expense accounts.

The CCPC was spawned from the merger of two other fake authorities – the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency.

So what will this super quango do if it’s not actually engaged in law enforcement?

Well, it’ll do what every other so called regulatory authority in Ireland does.

Conduct polls, carry out surveys, produce shiny/expensive annual reports and advise consumers to shop around while gobbling up millions in taxpayers’ money.

And it’s easy to monitor fake authorities like the CCPC. All we have to do is listen to victims like Grainne telling their stories on programmes like Liveline.

As soon as the airwaves go quiet regarding such scams we’ll know that consumers are receiving the protection they pay for.

Ripped off consumers are strongly advised not to hold their breaths.

Copy to:
CCPC

Dentists, fridges and guarantees

I recently bought a new fridge. It was priced at €310 but I managed to haggle down to €284.

Like all such items it comes, thanks to European law, with a two year guarantee.

Around the same time I had some dental work done which cost over €2,000. I asked the dentist about a guarantee.

She gave me a puzzled look and replied:

Well, if there’s a major problem in the next year or so I’m sure we can sort something out.

John Waters: Blind to the brutal reality of white-collar corruption in Ireland

Recently, Irish Times columnist, John Waters, did a really, really, stupid thing.

Writing in the Irish Mail on Sunday (January 22) Mr. Waters describes how he was browsing the Web when he was confronted with a pop-up competition, which, he writes ‘I was impelled to engage with’.

After clicking on a proffered answer to a quiz question Waters was invited to submit his mobile phone number which, and this is where the stupidity comes in, he did.

Immediately Waters was sucked into the murky, unregulated underworld of mobile phone rip-offs that ultimately cost him up to €200.

Now it might be argued that this could happen to anybody, indeed, it obviously happens to lots of people which is why most, if not all, phone companies are engaged in these sleazy practices.

But waters was doubly stupid because five years previously his daughter was the victim of a very similar rip-off.

She had texted her number to a TV advert which allowed criminals (Waters’ word) to steal over €150 from her account.

Waters eventually managed to get his daughters money refunded but only after a great deal of hassle and stress dealing with organisations like the offending phone company, Comreg, Regtel and the Department of Communications.

Here’s how he described the situation:

I discovered that this practice was widespread. So-called ‘premium-rater’ telephone companies were seemingly able to take money from someone’s mobile phone account with total impunity, even though no service had ever been requested and none supplied.

On top of this stupidity Waters goes on (unwittingly) to admit that he is extremely naïve and disturbingly ignorant (especially for a journalist) when it comes to his knowledge of how things are done in the (corrupt) state of Ireland.

Apparently Waters is one of those people who labour under the delusion that Irish regulators are there to serve the interests of the people, to make sure that citizens are protected against the ruthless activities of white-collar criminals.

On the off chance that Mr. Waters may at some point read this article I feel impelled to spell out the brutal reality.

So-called regulators, at best, consist of comfortable freeloaders, almost always appointed by politicians, who are expert only in drawing down their lottery sum salaries and expenses while regurgitating the same glossy annual report, which invariably paints a picture of absolute happiness across the land.

They exist for only one reason – to create the pretence that Ireland is a functional, well-regulated democracy.

These so-called regulators have just two priorities.

To do as their political masters instruct and to become expert in waffling to the general public about the great job they’re doing.

At worst, so-called regulators actively work to protect and indeed facilitate white- collar criminals no matter what the crime, no matter how much damage is inflicted on Ireland and its people.

How can I make such a statement with such confidence? Simple, I just look at the record, over, say the last thirty years, of endemic white-collar crime.

How many so-called regulators have independently uncovered white-collar crime in the last thirty years – None.

How many prosecutions have been taken by so-called regulators against white-collar criminals in the last thirty years – Very, very few.

How many white-collar criminals have been jailed in the last thirty years – Very, very few.

How many major white-collar criminals have been prosecuted and/or jailed over the last thirty years – None, absolutely none.

The most disturbing aspect of Mr. Waters’ article is his total ignorance of the depth of corruption in Ireland. The headline on his article reads:

Since when is larceny not just legal but admirable?

I can answer that question very precisely.

Larceny of the white-collar variety became legal and admired in December 1979 when John Waters’ hero, the criminal politician Haughey, came to power.

It was at that ignominious moment that Ireland and its people began the catastrophic slide into poverty and loss of sovereignty, a situation that will destroy the lives of Irish citizens for generations to come.

It is a genuine tragedy for Ireland that influential people like Mr. Waters are unable or are unwilling to accept the brutal reality that Ireland is an intrinsically corrupt state.

It is worth quoting the final few chapters of Mr. Waters’ article because it sums up his ignorance of the reality that our political system is corrupt and that the rotten system has spread the disease of corruption throughout all levels of Irish society.

It is as though many people now take it as read that Ireland has become a paradise for shysters and robbers.

I must have dropped off for a few years because I have no memory of this dramatic shift in Irish culture being discussed and ushered in.

Mr. Waters is admitting that he has no memory of the very serious political and financial white-collar crime that has been endemic over the last thirty years.

I still had these old-fashioned notions that stealing was illegal and even conceivably wrong and that the State had a responsibility to protect its citizens from crooks. Silly me.

Yes Mr. Waters, silly you.

Copy to:
John Waters

School costs – Who benefits?

The annual discussion regarding the ever increasing cost of preparing children for the school year was aired on RTE today.

Although there’s a great mass of hot air vented every year on this topic the situation is really very basic.

A school jumper bought in Dunnes Stores costs about €15/20 and will easily last the year.

A school jumper bought from a ‘favoured’ outlet with a fancy crest costs in the region of €60.

So, just like the school prefab rental scandal, all we have to find out is – who benefits?

Financial Regulator's secrecy and European law

In its refusal to disclose the names of banks that are robbing Irish citizens the so called Financial Regulator quoted Irish and European law as an excuse for its absolute secrecy.

I submitted a formal request to Europe Advice to check if such EU laws existed. Unfortunately, they were unable to help but did refer me to Europe Direct.

I spoke with an official from Europe Direct and am awaiting a reply.

Central Bank's secrecy could damage citizens interests

The following is an update on the matter of the Central Bank’s refusal to disclose even the most basic information regarding the latest scams in the Irish banking sector.

Those scams were:

Banks had charged thousands of homeowners the wrong interest rates on their mortgages.

Banks had misled customers with money in deposit accounts by promoting term and interest rates that were later changed once people signed up for the accounts.

Banks had short-changed thousands of customers on (other) interest rates.

The so called Financial Regulator (The Central Bank) is refusing to disclose even the most basic information regarding these scams.

This type of state secrecy can have potentially very serious consequences for citizens who may have dealings with these institutions.

As advised by an official in the Public Contacts Unit of the Central Bank I wrote to the bank requesting the following information.

Is it official policy not to name financial institutions that are guilty of such activities?

Is the policy in writing, and if so, where can it be located?

If the policy is not in writing where and by whom did it originate and how is it communicated to Central Bank staff?

The Central Bank replied:

Due to the confidentiality requirements imposed by domestic and EU legislation which provides for confidentiality of information relating to ongoing supervision and limits disclosure to circumstances specifically provided for in the Central Bank Act 1942(as amended) we are prohibited from releasing supervisory information regarding any institution.

I would draw you attention in particular to Section 33AKof the Central Bank Act 1942 (as amended).

Yours sincerely

My response;

Dear…

I will give you the benefit of doubt and assume you are an intelligent person, a benefit you clearly do not extend to me judging from the content of your email.

You will be aware that Irish banks and other financial institutions have been plundering customers and state accounts for many decades with complete impunity.

Despite this fact not a single financial institution or official has ever been charged with a crime since the establishment of our state in 1922.

This can only mean that Irish financial institutions are among the most honest in the history of the world or financial regulation in Ireland is not seen as an integral part of democratic accountability as it is in real democracies.

A person with even a smidgeon of intelligence can see that the latter is the case.

Your organisation is refusing to name the institutions, the number of customers or the level of funds involved in this latest fraud on Irish citizens.

No other country in the world, not even the most corrupt banana republic, would refuse such basic information to its citizens.

Let me be blunt, your organisation is, effectively, protecting the thieving vermin that infest the Irish financial sector at the expense of Irish citizens.

I look forward to the day, hopefully very soon, when the people who make and enforce such Soviet style secrecy laws are stripped of their power and influence.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the great majority of ordinary Irish citizens are of the same view.

Yours sincerely
Anthony Sheridan

Food Safety Authority of Ireland: 'There are no Spanish cucumbers in Ireland'

16 people have died and hundreds are seriously ill as a result of the deadly E. coli outbreak in Europe.

It is suspected that cucumbers from Spain caused the outbreak.

Irish citizens are more at risk than other Europeans when such outbreaks occur simply because our so called regulatory agencies are so incompetent and, in some cases, seem to operate with other interests in mind.

Here’s how the deadly E. coli outbreak was handled by the so called Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) as reported on RTE News today.

Yesterday, Professor Alan Riley from the FSAI told an RTE reporter that cucumbers in all Irish stores were sourced from Irish and Dutch producers.

This statement, from a so called informed authority, could have resulted in many Irish consumers eating contaminated cucumbers.

Shortly after Riley’s statement RTE received several calls from members of the public who had Spanish cucumbers in their fridges and were very concerned.

It was also reported that SuperValu, Dunnes Stores and Lidl had removed (the non existent FSAI?) Spanish cucumbers from their shelves as a precautionary measure.

So, will we get answers from the FSAI? Will we get accountability from the FSAI? Will anybody be fired for potentially putting the public in danger?

There’s as much chance of that as there is of Sean Fitzpatrick ending up behind bars.

See here for a previous incident involving the FSAI which could potentially have put the public in danger.

Copy to:
FSAI

Law enforcement – Irish style

The Data Protection Commissioner has written to political parties to caution them about communicating with individuals using text, email or phone in the forthcoming election.

The Commissioner said that his office had received numerous complaints during previous election campaigns.

He said subsequent investigations revealed that contact details were obtained from sources such as sports clubs, friends, colleagues and schools.

Obtaining personal data in such circumstances constitutes a breach of the Data Protection Acts.

I rang the Data Protection Commissioner to find out how many politicians or political parties had been prosecuted as a result of these investigations.

Before ringing I made a mad guess that the answer would be zero and indeed that mad guess turned out to be, well, not so mad.

Here’s some of what I was told by a spokesperson.

If a company sends an email or text to a citizen without permission they can be immediately prosecuted, the law is crystal clear on the matter.

However, there is a special exemption written into the law for politicians and political parties.

In other words these people and organisations have full rights to bombard citizens with any amount of unsolicited material at any time of day or night.

Now we have to stop here and consider this special exemption.

Who made this decision? Was it a politician, a civil servant – or both? Why should politicians enjoy this special exemption?

Is it just another of those occasions where the law and state institutions are utilised (abused?) to provide politicians with an advantage at the expense of citizens?

But there’s good news.

Apparently politicians/political parties can be fined up to €3,000 (about five days expenses for the average TD?) if they illegally obtain contact details of citizens through such sources as sports clubs, friends, colleagues and schools.

In his warning the Commissioner revealed that he had indeed received and investigated numerous such complaints after recent elections so I put the obvious question to the Commissioner’s spokesperson.

Has your office ever taken action against a politician or political party for breaching the Data Protection Act?

No, it hasn’t arisen. You see our first action is never to serve an enforcement order in any of the complaints we deal with.

(Translation: Our first action is never to enforce the law?).

You’re confirming that you’ve never served an enforcement order against a politician or political party.

We investigated complaints in the local government and general elections but it hasn’t been necessary to actually serve an enforcement order because in each case, when we found out, they agreed to delete the details.

This is similar to the strategy adopted by the Financial Regulator when banks were found to be robbing their customers – just pay back the money and promise to be good in future.

This method of dealing with alleged law breakers is one of the principal reasons why our country is now facing total ruination.

The (Tammany Hall) system can be outlined as follows.

An activity is taking place that is damaging to the general public.

Laws are introduced and an organisation is set up to enforce those laws to protect the general public and the good of society.

If it is found that the laws are ‘inconvenient’ for some vested interests (politicians, bankers, property developers, solicitors etc.) a number of options can be considered.

Write an exemption into the law. This is usually buried deep within the legislation.

Ensure that the enforcement agency is provided with only minimum powers and is so understaffed and under funded that it will be impossible to carry out its remit.

The ODCE, presently investigating Anglo Irish Bank, is a good example of this kind of strategy.

Equip the so called regulator with Soviet style secrecy laws which debars any questions whatsoever. The Financial Regulator is a good example of this strategy.

Allow civil servants wide discretion regarding the implementation of the law. This particular case is a good example of this strategy.

The Data Protection Commissioner could have taken action against politicians/political parties for breach of the Act but chose instead to come to a mutual agreement

Ignore the law altogether. This is a very common strategy in Ireland. Ansbacher and DIRT are just two examples where so called regulatory agencies were aware of serious breaches of the law but failed to take action.

The failure to rigorously enforce laws by a wide range of state agencies over a prolonged number of years has led to the inevitable – political chaos, impoverishment and hardship for ordinary citizens and national shame in front of the world community.

Allow me to end by making another (mad) guess/prediction – not a single politician or political party will receive an enforcement order from the so called Data Protection Commissioner as a result of any breaches of the Act in the forthcoming election.

Copy to:

The Data Protection Commissioner