One of my photos

Hanging On The Telephone

October 23rd, 2008 · Posted by Skuds in Life · 1 Comment · Life

Damaged Virgin Media distribution box in the Guines Trust estate, January 2006

Damaged Virgin Media distribution box in the Guinness Trust estate, January 2006

Several times in the past I have banged on about damaged cable TV/telephone distribution boxes.  I used to call Virgin Media to report them but gave up after being faced with a distinct lack of interest from them. The only time I would persevere now is if the one that feeds my house is open.

There is a story in our local paper this week that explains better than I have been able to so far why anybody who sees their local box damaged should be reporting it – and why Virgin should show more interest.

I can’t link to the story in the Crawley Observer because it doesn’t seem to be on their website, but here is the gist of it:

  • Woman gets enormous telephone bill, including single call to a premium rate number costing £167.29
  • Woman calls to complain, insisting she did call a gambling line for four hours
  • Virgin don’t believe her and suggest that maybe her two-year-old sone made teh call
  • A Virgin engineer remembers that the box in her street has been reported as insecure/open often in the past.
  • Virgin Media refund the call cost

I think that covers the basics. The suggestion is that somebody who knows what they are doing can wire a handset into one of these open cabinets and make calls on somebody else’s line.  I don’t know if it is likely, and it sounds impractical (wouldn’t you notice somebody sitting out in the street with a phone plugged into the cabinet?) but I guess it is a possibility.

Previously I have reported these cabinets because they just look untidy, because according to the broken windows theory they would attract crime and vandalism, and because anyone could rip out cables and deprive households of telephones, Internet or TV – or the weather could do that over the longer term.  I had really not thought of the possibility of anybody stealing phone services.  Even so I could not, and still can’t, understand why people who lived near such boxes are not reporting them and phoning up Virgin several times a day until they are fixed: I know I would.

There is a box near me that was open for a while even after I reported it.  When it was fixed it was secured with gaffer tape…  it might make the box weather proof but its hardly secure.  The unbelievable thing is that a Virgin engineer lives in that street – I see his van there in the evenings. If I was in that position I would make sure it got on the job sheets or even just fix the thing myself.

Anyway, there are now extra motivations to fix such eyesores.  For the public there is the outside chance they could end up with huge phone bills, and Virgin might not be so quick to refund charges in the future.  For Virgin there is the possibility of lost revenue if they do refund charges.  There is even the possibility of fraud; if you had a damaged box outside your houseyou could call up all sorts of premium rate lines or phone relatives in New Zealand and then refuse to pay the bill, using the damaged box as a defence.

Virgin Media, do yourselves a favour and find a type of distribution cabinet that doesn’t get damaged so easily and in the meantime give a bit of priority to fixing them up.

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