Category Archives: Regulator

Paying for energy by Direct Debit? Your bill may rise before October so be ready!

Toothless energy “regulator” Ofgem has said household bills may rise before the price cap does in October, as firms try to spread the cost of higher use in the winter months.

The story is on the BBC here.

But this kind of unilateral change by energy suppliers means customers are denied the opportunity to change the way they pay, if they have to.

Who says people are going to want to spread a notional cost of energy they haven’t used?

Millions of us are planning to limit our energy use instead, cutting out all but the essentials – so for us it would be better to take back what we have overpaid in the summer and pay only for what we use in the winter.

The suppliers won’t be happy with that because it removes their safety cushion. But they have been merrily paying massive bonuses to their shareholders, so perhaps they should have engaged in a little forward thinking before demanding that the rest of us take the strain?

As This Writer stated in a previous article, the best advice for you – for now – is to get in touch with your supplier, explain your personal financial circumstances and discuss the best way for both of you to get through the current crisis.

It will also give you a chance to check how quickly your supplier will bring bills down when energy costs start to drop again.

If your energy bill direct debit has doubled or tripled, here’s Martin Lewis’s advice

Martin Lewis: the ‘Money Saving Expert’ has advice that could save you hundreds of pounds if your energy supplier is overcharging you.

It seems some energy firms are playing fast and loose with customers on direct debit, with price hikes of up to 250 per cent.

So take a hard look at what your energy firm is charging you.

It seems some of them are trying to boost their own bank balances in advance of another expected price hike in October – in effect, relieving their own cash flow problems by inflicting them on you.

But it could lead to a fine of up to one-tenth of a company’s turnover if it is caught.

‘Money Saving Expert’ Martin Lewis has given advice on this, warning that there are some circumstances in which higher bill increases may be allowed.

But if you are in credit and “on the price cap”, and seeing a bill increase of more than 54 per cent, then you should call up the companies – politely – and dispute the new bill by asking them to justify the hike.

This would not be a “negotiation” as there is a legal requirement for your direct debit to be fair.

If the firm refuses to reduce the bill, then you should announce that you will take the matter to the Ombudsman. This will cost the energy company money.

Source: Martin Lewis’ urgent advice to anyone who uses direct debit to pay for their energy bills

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Nadine Dorries appoints new charity regulator – the wrong way

Nadine Dorries: wrong again.

If you heard a job had become available because a candidate had failed, went for it, and then found you weren’t considered because the bosses couldn’t be bothered to do it all again, wouldn’t you be upset?

If so, you can understand why the House of Commons Culture committee refused to endorse Nadine Dorries’s decision to make Orlando Fraser the new chair of the Charity Commission.

Mr Fraser was only appointed because Dorries’s original choice – Martin Thomas, who was reported to be a long-time friend of Boris Johnson – resigned after just a week in the job over allegations of inappropriate behaviour in a previous post.

She simply went back to her shortlist and appointed the candidate who was next on the list – to the disgust of the Culture committee:

Withholding its approval for Mr Fraser’s appointment, the cross-party Culture Committee said in its report that Ms Dorries should have initiated an entirely new selection process at that point, rather than picking another candidate from the existing shortlist.

The “slapdash” failure to rerun the process raised “serious concerns” about the selection process and the lack of diversity in the shortlist, the committee said.

The controversy has cast a shadow over Mr Fraser’s tenure, before he even started in the job.

No matter what he does now, he will always be considered a second-best choice who only get the role because a government minister couldn’t be bothered to do her job properly.

Source: Nadine Dorries appoints new charity regulator in face of objections from parliamentary committee

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Grade confirmed as Ofcom chair despite MPs’ warning about lack of knowledge

Not ideal: Lord Michael Grade’s understanding of the social media comes from his own children – he doesn’t use it himself. And remember, this is a man who failed to realise Jimmy Savile was committing many terrible crimes, while an executive at the BBC.

Former BBC chair and Channel 4 boss Lord Michael Grade has been confirmed as the new chair of Ofcom, despite apparent glaring gaps in his knowledge of the social media and online safety.

This is important because Ofcom will be responsible for policing online safety after the new Bill on that subject becomes law.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said Grade had been appointed by the culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, to the £142,500-a-year role for four years from 1 May.

This was despite concerns raised by the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that it was concerned by Lord Grade’s admission this week that he does not use social media but is aware of how it works thanks to his children:

“His clear lack of depth when talking about social media and online safety gives us concerns,” said the committee in a report published on Friday, hours before the government confirmed his appointment.

“He appears to understand the importance of Ofcom’s new role in regulating the online space. It would be difficult to find a candidate with deep experience across the whole of Ofcom’s remit, and we hope that he will be well supported with the necessary advice to fulfil his role as chair.”

The committee, which did not have the power to block Grade’s appointment, was scathing about the DCMS hiring process… Conservative chair Julian Knight said: “This shambles of a process gives us great concern about the department’s ability to run effective and impartial public appointment competitions.”

In a statement issued after Grade’s confirmation, Knight said the rapid appointment of Grade and that of Orlando Fraser as chair of the Charity Commission on Friday showed the appointments process was “broken”. “The fact that the DCMS department has taken only a matter of hours to put aside our concerns highlights once again that there are serious underlying issues at play here,” he said.

The concerns about Grade’s ability to tackle online safety may be well-founded.

Bear in mind this comment on his appointment, from a reader on Facebook:

“What, the guy who let [Jimmy] Savile run riot when running [the] BBC? *That* Michael Grade?

Source: Michael Grade confirmed as Ofcom chair despite MPs’ warning | Ofcom | The Guardian

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Tory lord Michael Grade is government’s (new) preferred candidate to run Ofcom

The ideal candidate? Michael Grade.

The Tory government’s convoluted quest to find someone sympathetic to them to run the comms regulater Ofcom may soon be at an end.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has said ministers reckon former BBC1 and Channel 4 boss – now a Tory lord – Michael Grade is the “ideal candidate” for the role.

If appointed, Lord Grade will move to the cross-benches in the House of Lords and will give up any non-executive roles that could cause a conflict of interest in his new position.

Is he a good choice, though? Well, he has made some… controversial decisions. In 1985, as controller of BBC1, he launched a vendetta against Doctor Who that led to the show being axed four years later. It was relaunched 16 years later and became the BBC’s flagship drama show.

However, he has spoken in favour of privatising of Channel 4 and recently criticised the BBC’s coverage of events like the Downing Street parties as “gleeful and disrespectful”. So he seems perfect for the Tories’ purposes.

But then, they – including Dorries – already spent years trying to shoehorn Paul Dacre into the role, until he eventually gave up, saying the civil service had prejudiced the process against him because of his right-of-centre “convictions”. We may have different ideas about where the prejudice lies, Paul!

Lord Grade will now appear before MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee for pre-appointment scrutiny on a date yet to be confirmed.

Ofcom deals with licencing and complaints to do with radio, television and telecoms, among other things – and its scope is likely to be expanded hugely by the Online Safety Bill which will give it new responsibilities and resources to ensure online platforms tackle illegal and abusive material.

There may be one fly in the Tory ointment: at 79, one wonders how long Lord Grade will be able to keep a grip on the role. Will they be looking for a new candidate in a couple of years?

Source: Tory peer and ex-broadcaster Michael Grade named as preferred govt candidate for Ofcom chair

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#IPSO: toothless press regulator backs out of standards investigation into repeat libeller

A demand for action to stop a serial-libelling newspaper committing further offences has collapsed after the press regulator IPSO as good as admitted it won’t do its job.

The Jewish Chronicle has been found guilty of libel by the courts four times in the past three years – and was found by IPSO itself to have breached the Editors’ Code on accuracy no fewer than 33 times in the same period.

The Chronicle itself – including its editors and current owners – seems completely unperturbed by this evidence of prolonged wrongdoing.

As a news reporter of more than a quarter of a century’s standing, This Writer finds that amazing. If I had been found to have libelled anybody when I was working for the newspapers, my job would probably have been in danger, along with the paper’s future if the compensation award was large enough.

So I and a group of other JC libel victims led by former Labour councillor Jo Bird felt we had no option other than to appeal to press regulator IPSO for a standards investigation into the paper.

This would have meant that IPSO would consider whether the number and regularity of Editor’s Code breaches meant that the JC‘s editorial standards have fallen to an unacceptable level. If it were to find against the newspaper, then penalties – and measures to improve it – may be demanded.

IPSO’s board apparently discussed the matter and concluded that, because the JC is small and it has a new editor, an investigation would be disproportionate and unnecessary. Additional training will be enough, and the IPSO executive will review progress in six months.

Apparently, being small is now an excuse for bad journalism. I wonder if any of my colleagues in the left-wing social media will be allowed to offer the same excuse, if they are found to breach the law in similar ways.

As for the change of editor – how is this a guarantee of improvement? We know nothing about the newbie, who could be just as bad as Stephen Pollard’s record shows him to have been.

And of course all IPSO publishers are supposed to deliver training regularly to their staff as a matter of routine.

We are left with just one conclusion: that as a regulator of the UK press, IPSO is a sham.

As a member of the group that took action against the JC, I said today: “IPSO has refused to take meaningful action in the case of a member that repeatedly defies its authority, and it is clear that it will never do so. This sends the message to IPSO members that no behaviour by them could ever be bad enough to prompt even a formal investigation, let alone disciplinary action.

“We had pointed out to Lord Faulks that IPSO’s own conduct should also be subject to investigation. IPSO’s complaints committee publicly reported the Jewish Chronicle to IPSO’s standards department for ‘unacceptable ’conduct in November 2019, yet the paper’s spree of libels and code breaches was allowed to continue. This matter has been ignored.

“The price for this regulatory failure is felt by the public – both by those who are libelled and misrepresented and by readers who are fed falsehoods without consequence. That IPSO provided its response to us only after five months had elapsed underlines this disregard for the public. That it chose to do so at the height of the Christmas season smacks of the worst kind of news manipulation.

“The moral is clear: IPSO is nothing like a real regulator. It is a sham, a toothless organisation that always puts the interests of the press before those of ordinary people. If you have been abused in the papers, don’t count on IPSO to put it right.”

To this, I would add that it is clear the only way to gain proper redress against an IPSO-regulated newspaper that libels you is to take it to court and win a large amount of money in damages.

Yes, it is expensive. But my own experience in crowdfunding shows that members of the public are entirely willing to support their colleagues who have been wronged by people and organisations in positions of power and influence.

It can be done. And in the case of rags like the Jewish Chronicle, it should be – not just for the sake of those it has wronged, but for the sake of the facts.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Tory government bid to put their man in charge of Ofcom fails

Paul Dacre: the government destroyed any pretence of impartiality to shoehorn him into Ofcom, but he has given up on it anyway.

Oh dear. How sad (for the Tories). Never mind!

Here’s the story:

The article makes it clear that the Tory government had tried to rig the appointment system after Dacre was rejected first time around:

After failing in his first attempt when an interview panel decided the former editor of the Daily Mail did not fulfil the required criteria, ministers then cleared the way for him to be given another shot.

The panel had deemed him “not appointable”. Now let’s find out how he described his rejection:

He said he had been judged inappropriate to head Ofcom the first time because his “strong convictions” were not compatible with the role.

That would be true enough – Ofcom needs to be impartial so any bias should indeed rule any candidate out of taking the chair.

Dacre – formerly the editor of the Daily Mail – couldn’t resist taking a swipe at the civil service as he announced his withdrawal in The Times:

Dacre described the process of civil service recruitment as an “infelicitous dalliance with the blob”, and suggested it was Whitehall workers rather than politicians “who really run this country”.

No, it’s definitely Tory politicians who have corrupted public life. Ofcom is a prime example; they corrupted the selection process in Dacre’s favour – but you notice he didn’t have anything to say about that!

“The civil service will control (and leak) everything; the process could take a year in which your life will be put on hold; and if you are possessed of an independent mind and are unassociated with the liberal/left, you will have more chance of winning the lottery than getting the job.”

In a final attack on the civil service, Dacre said he was taking up “an exciting new job” in the private sector that “struggles to create the wealth to pay for all those senior civil servants working from home so they can spend more time exercising on their Peloton bikes and polishing their political correctness”.

And good riddance to him. It will be interesting to find out who ends up employing him, and to look up their tax details to ensure they aren’t operating from a tax haven and cheating the Treasury.

The government will now face the task of cleaning up the appointment process that it shamelessly compromised in its bid to shoehorn Dacre in. According to The Guardian,

Concerns were raised about the transparency of the recruitment process.

When the Guardian revealed a lobbyist at a company with close connections to the Conservative party was picked to help select which candidates should be approved, Dacre announced he would not proceed with an application again despite being urged to “by many senior members of the government”.

The government had spent more than a year trying to ease Dacre’s application for the job. After he failed the first interview process the government spent the summer trying to find people willing to sit on a fresh interview panel for the job, with many individuals reluctant to put their name to the process. The job description was also rewritten to favour a more confrontational candidate, in another move seen as favouring Dacre.

The government now has just 10 days to find another preferred candidate, with applications due by 29 November.

Do any of you fancy it?

Strangely, the Guardian article doesn’t provide a link to an online application form, and all the gov.uk web pages concerning Ofcom chairmanship applications are out of date.

It’s as if they only want to take applications from the people they choose, don’t you think?

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Join the campaign to keep Tory choice Paul Dacre from running ‘independent’ Ofcom

Paul Dacre: if he’s the Tory choice, then he certainly shouldn’t get the job.

The Conservatives are trying to rig the selection of a new chairman for communications regulator Ofcom.

They want to install former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, even though he has already been through the selection process and was rejected.

The interview panel deemed him “not appointable” a few months ago – so the Tories have taken time out to appoint a new panel member: Michael Simmonds, a former Conservative Party advisor who is married to Conservative MP Nick Gibb (and therefore brother-in-law to BBC board member Sir Robbie Gibb, himself a former Downing Street comms chief under Theresa May).

In fact, the interview panel’s connections with the Conservatives are multiple (and therefore extremely suspicious). See the Guardian article (link below) for further details.

They have also rewritten the job description.

The intention seems clear – as the Good Law Project states in its article (link below): “When Boris Johnson doesn’t like the outcome of an official process, he tries to rip up the rules and start again.

“Ministers… are now shamelessly pushing to appoint Mr Dacre by adjusting the requirements of the role and re-running the recruitment process with a different interview panel.”

Lawyers acting for the Good Law Project have written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who has the ultimate say over the appointment, stating that this “second competition raises very serious concerns, in particular as to whether it has been held, and designed, in order to favour Mr Dacre’s candidacy”. And they have a point.

Ofcom should be independent of both the Government and the services it regulates. The appointment process must follow the rules of the Governance Code for Public Appointments: whoever is hired should be selected on merit, through an open and fair process.

The Governance Code for Public Appointments does allow for Ministers to appoint someone who is not deemed “appointable” by the Assessment Panel. But there are safeguards built into the Governance Code: they must first consult the Commissioner for Public Appointments, and they are required to explain their reasons and justify their decision publicly.

“The reason why Ofcom must remain independent of Government is the same reason the media must remain independent of Government: neither can do their job if they are in the Government’s pocket,” states the GLP in its article.

“We’re asking the Secretary of State to explain why the competition for Chair is being rerun and why Mr Dacre is being allowed to reapply.”

Unfortunately, the Culture Secretary is Nadine Dorries.

The GLP says it wants proper answers but is hardly likely to get any from her.

It is threatening court action if it doesn’t get them.

You can help… try… to change Dorries’s mind – by signing a petition calling on Dorries not to appoint Dacre.

Also the video is worth watching.

In honesty, this will probably end up in court. The Tories want to dismantle the BBC – despite having stuffed it with their own people – and they know Dacre will help them do it.

But this would be blatant government interference in an organisation that should be independent.

And it needs to be fought.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Cambridge Analytica did not misuse data in EU referendum; it just lied about what it could do, says watchdog

This can’t be the first time an organisation harmed its own reputation with wild claims.

But Cambridge Analytica seems to have engineered its own destruction with its claim to be able to influence people using data it had accrued about them.

These referred to Americans but it seems they raised questions about the organisation’s role in the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union in 2016.

As a result, the (UK’s) Information Commissioner launched an investigation into the company in 2017 – and it collapsed in 2018.

Were the two events related? If so, it could be argued that Cambridge Analytica’s own boasts destroyed it.

Cambridge Analytica had repeatedly claimed in its marketing material to have “5,000+ data points per individual on 230 million adult Americans”, suggesting it had incredible power to micro-target individuals with suggestive political messaging using a giant psychographic database.

However, the investigation concluded that “based on what we found it appears that this may have been an exaggeration” and much of the company’s activities followed “well recognised processes using commonly available technology”.

So did it attract the unwanted attention of the information regulator needlessly?

Well, it seems the firm wasn’t involved in the EU referendum campaign at all:

[Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner] said she found no evidence that Cambridge Analytica were actively involved in the EU referendum campaign, beyond an early proposal to work with UKIP which was not put into action.

It turns out the Information Commissioner found no evidence of collusion with Russia to influence the referendum either:

[Denham] said her team also found no evidence Cambridge Analytica aided Russian intervention in the UK political process.

Particularly interesting to This Writer, though, was the revelation that

the company’s data protection practices were lax “with little thought for effective security measures”.

Couple this with the following –

Cambridge Analytica founder Alexander Nix was disqualified from acting as a company director for seven years for “offering potentially unethical services to prospective clients” including bribery or honey trap stings, voter disengagement campaigns, obtaining information to discredit political opponents, and spreading information anonymously in political campaigns.

– and we see that the firm (or at least its founder) was quite happy to break the Data Protection Act left, right and centre by obtaining information and then distributing it to the public in breach of the law.

This links with my recent court case against the Labour Party, in which I gave evidence that employees had put together false information about me and passed it to newspapers who then published it to thousands of people.

Labour’s representative tried to claim that, even though the party (as represented by its general secretary) was the data manager responsible for the way the information was used, it was not responsible for the acts of any employees because (as I understand it) there is no evidence that it ordered them to commit those acts.

But then, they wouldn’t have had access to this – false, in my case – information if Labour had not ordered them to compile it.

Put the two cases together and it seems the Data Protection Act is a dead letter – unless a person whose information has been misused can prove exactly who misused it and why they did it. That’s going to be impossible in most cases, isn’t it?

I was therefore hoping to read that the Information Commissioner was bringing recommendations to the government that would strengthen the law.

And I was keen to see what they would be.

I was disappointed. It seems all the information that we are obliged to provide to organisations, just to get on in modern life, is vulnerable to abuse every way you can imagine. Not a happy thought!

Source: Cambridge Analytica did not misuse data in EU referendum, says watchdog | UK news | The Guardian

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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The Johnson age of corruption and patronage: he appoints Dacre to run Ofcom and Moore to the BBC

Charles Moore and Paul Dacre: One doesn’t believe in public-service broadcasting, so he has been put in charge of the BBC; the other doesn’t believe in impartial, statutorily-regulated media so he has been given the media regulator Ofcom.

There was no process about these appointments; they are a gift from Boris Johnson to flunkies he wants to do his will.

He knows Dacre will ensure that far-right propaganda gets an easy ride from the broadcasting watchdog because Dacre published far-right propaganda every day in the Daily Heil and gave it an easy ride when he was in charge at the Press Complaints Commission (now IPSO).

This Writer is less familiar with Charles Moore, which tends to indicate that I had a taste of his work and turned away in disgust. From the words of others, I understand there will be no attempt at political balance while he has any say in what goes on at Broadcasting House.

Here‘s the story:

Paul Dacre, former editor of the Daily Mail, has been asked to run the national broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, while Lord Moore, the former editor of the Daily Telegraph and biographer of Margaret Thatcher, is believed to be considering accepting the role of chairman of the BBC.

The provocative choice of two such hardline anti-BBC voices has prompted anger and dismay across the broadcasting and entertainment industry. Speaking to the Observer on Saturday evening the Labour peer Andrew Adonis summed up the response of many to the news. “If true this is Cummings operating straight out of the Trump playbook with the intent to undermine our democratic institutions.”

The former government minister continued: “These would be really disgraceful appointments. Neither Paul Dacre at Ofcom nor Charles Moore at the BBC would believe in the mission of the institution they are running. Dacre demonstrably doesn’t believe in impartially and statutorily regulated media and Moore doesn’t believe in public service broadcasting, as his refusal to pay the licence fee demonstrates.”

This man refuses to pay the TV licence fee and Boris Johnson puts him in charge of the BBC!

If you’re still wondering why it’s a big deal, it means Johnson will control the media through these two puppets – and will get away with more of this:

And here are the responses:

An oligarchy is a small group of people running an entire country. That’s what Johnson wants and that is what he is getting. See this, also:

This last one is ironic:

All the organs mentioned in the tweet are indeed now in right-wing hands.

In related news…

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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The Livingstone Presumption is now available
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Health Warning: Government! is now available
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HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook