Monday, 20 March 2017


Many years ago, British Gas, (a utility company with an appalling customer service rating), used to send people threatening letters claiming that they owed £0.00 and threatening legal action if it wasn't paid. I wrote about them a couple of years ago in a brief piece, you can read it here

It seems that they are not the only company with a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to customer relations.

Up until march this year, I bought my electricity from a company called OVO. I moved to them from Atlantic Electric because they were a lot cheaper and, as far as I could tell, the electricity they supplied was of a similar quality. 

I had joined a 2 year fixed tariff contract and this ended at the end of February. They wrote to me to let me know my agreement was coming to an end and, as a good will gesture, agreed to continue supplying me with their electricity with only a 20% increase in price.

Looking around for another supplier, I found a small company called "The Energy Deal" who could supply me with their electricity for the same price OVO were originally charging me, so I signed up with them. 

Everything went smoothly, The Energy Deal said hello, OVO said goodbye and that was that; or so I supposed.

Imagine my surprise then when I received an email from OVO telling me how pleased they were that I was staying with them and telling me how much they were going to be charging me in future. According to their letter, "based on your tariff and energy use, we think your energy will cost you £0.00 for the next 12 months".

If they had told me that was what they were going to charge me originally, I never would have left them.


The Poke is a website which specialises in reporting some of the more unusual and interesting stories appearing on social media and the news. I often have a look at it and find most of the stories quite entertaining. 

The site is free to access and they get their funding by running lots of click-bait ads. These are the ones where "you won't believe how this woman lost 300lbs in just 10 days" and "this miracle treatment Doctors don't want you to know about" type stories which are meant to encourage you to click on them and so create internet traffic for advertising revenue.

The trouble is, because of the nature of the site itself, being full of incredible and absurd stories, it's sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the genuine stories and the click-bait ads. Perhaps that's the idea.

Anyway, I'd finished reading all the latest stories and thought, just for a bit of fun, I would try one or two of the click-bait ones.

"This Diabetes Breakthrough Will Bankrupt The Diabetes Industry" screamed the first one. I wasn't aware that there was a diabetes industry but I decided to take a look anyway.

It opened up into a screen that looked like this

A bit of research told me that 1st Browser is a nasty piece of work which, when downloaded, re-directs all your searches to sites trying to sell you things. It's difficult to get rid of, or so I'm told. Not a problem I will have because I wasn't stupid enough to click on the link. I don't see it doing much to cure my diabetes either.

Going back to The Poke, the ad was still there (they seem to cycle them so you don't always get the same ones) so I clicked on it again. This time another offer popped up

No, this isn't going to cure me either.

Not to be disheartened, I tried a different one. This told me that "New British Diet Pill Works Too Good".

As you can see, this one must work because there is a picture of a very fat lady next to a picture of a very slim lady. These two pictures are the same lady, or so we are told, so it must be true, with the legend "Lost 3.0 stone in 6 weeks!". Don't forget the exclamation mark, very important.

There are a number of important points to consider if you are thinking of trying this product. First, beware of the free trial promotions on offer. There are a number of reports of companies selling this product deducting the full payment from customers' credit cards even after they have cancelled within the contracted period.

Next, the product itself. Firstly, they claim that their product has been "clinically proven" to produce various results. They provide no evidence of any clinical trials to support any such thing. They won't even disclose the actual ingredients so no safe clinical testing could ever be carried out.

When you are looking for suspicious claims for health products, there is one word to look out for perhaps more than any other. Forget vibrations, quantum, wellness or anything like that. No, the word is "detox".

If you want to know what the word "detox" actually means then have a read of this Wikipedia entry. As most of you won't bother, here is the most relevant extract.

"Detoxification or detoxication (detox for short) is the physiological or medicinal removal of toxic substances from a living organism, including the human body, which is mainly carried out by the liver. Additionally, it can refer to the period of withdrawal during which an organism returns to homeostasis after long-term use of an addictive substance. In medicine, detoxification can be achieved by decontamination of poison ingestion and the use of antidotes as well as techniques such as dialysis and (in a limited number of cases) chelation therapy".

"Certain approaches in alternative medicine claim to remove "toxins" from the body through herbal, electrical or electromagnetic treatments. These toxins are undefined and have no scientific basis,(Mayo Clinic) making the validity of such techniques questionable. There is little evidence for toxic accumulation in these cases, as the liver and kidneys automatically detoxify and excrete many toxic materials including metabolic wastes. Under this theory if toxins are too rapidly released without being safely eliminated (such as when metabolizing fat that stores toxins) they can damage the body and cause malaise

Read that last sentence again very carefully. What it's saying is that so-called alternative medicine treatments don't do anything. It's just as well because if they did, in an uncontrolled way, (and none of the peddlers of this stuff are actually medically qualified), you could do yourself real harm.

If you see the word "detox" in anything other than it's correct clinical context, you are about to be shaken down till your teeth rattle. They claim that the "Pure Colon Detox" has been clinically proven to "Help Eliminate Extremely Damaging Toxins That Have Built Up Over The Years".

Apart from the fact that you should always be suspicious of anyone using Nigerian 419 scam type emphasis on capital letters, you should also be aware that, while there is a clinical definition of the term "detox", this isn't it.

Quite how you are suppose to "clinically prove" something which has no clinical basis is something they don't care to explain. It's like trying to "clinically prove" that it's unlucky to walk under a ladder.

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