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Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls? (Read 53,030 times)
nicholas43
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #45 - Aug 20th, 2011 at 11:46am
 
SCV: I don't quite follow why you think the Tesco anomaly has 'nothing to do' with the ad hoc call diversion which most TPs offer to retail consumers. It seems to me that the principle is the same: if I make a call to 0SAB... which my OP's tariff says will cost me x pence plus y pence a minute (where x and y may be 0), my OP can only charge x and y. If the recipient of the call has arranged with its TP for this call to go to a call centre in Dundee or Calcutta, the cost of that termination is a matter between the recipient of the call and its TP.
What is really weird about VM's stance, and I do hope you get to the bottom of, is their claim that an arrangement between Tesco and Tesco's telecoms provider can hijack VM's billing system. If I call, from a landline, an 0800 number (for example) that in practice terminates in Calcutta, as far as I know my telecom provider does not know (or care) where the call terminates. It is simply entitled to collect from  the TP the agreed cost of its delivering the call to the TP's switch.
All this seems to me different from the explicit tariff provision some (all?) OPs make, to the effect that calls to specified geographic numbers used by dial-up internet providers (if any still exist?)  are excluded from deals at £z a month for 'all' calls to geographic numbers.
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Barbara
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #46 - Aug 20th, 2011 at 12:11pm
 
Has anyone who is not with VM tried calling a Tesco geo number recently to see if it is happening with other telecoms providers or just with VM?   Surely if Tesco were using some kind of different system as suggested in an earlier post that would affect all telecoms providers ; why would Tesco have set up one systm for VM & left calls coming via other providers unchanged?  Or have I miseed something?   I do feel this is very worrying as, if Tesco can & have done it, how long before other large organisations try the same?
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SilentCallsVictim
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #47 - Aug 20th, 2011 at 9:04pm
 
To address the well made points by nicolas43 and Barbara.

I am now inclined to agree with VM in its suggestion that there is something fundamentally different about what is happening with these numbers. I see it as unrelated to the "Call Divert" calling feature, mobile roaming, or the termination of a non-geographic call via a geographic number. Each of these cases involves the call ending up somewhere other than what may be expected from the number dialled, however this is about exceptional charging.

Barbara's suggestion of tests using other providers is a sound one. I am prepared to wait a few days for VM to come back with a coherent explanation of what is happening here before I engage in further testing myself. If VM defends the practice, then the fact that others do the same will doubtless form part of its defence.

I have kept the idea of the special billing for ISPs on geographic numbers in my mind throughout this. I am still waiting for BT to come back to me with details of where their list of such numbers is published. As suggested, it could be that there are no longer any such cases. VM makes no reference to this in its Price Guides.

The bottom line is as follows.

VM can charge whatever it likes for any telephone call. If VM wants to charge for calls to certain geographic numbers at the rates applicable for operator connected calls to 0845 numbers, it is perfectly entitled to do so. It must however declare this arrangement in its pricing literature. Failing to do so, and failing to bill in accordance with the advised prices is a serious breach of General Conditions (10 and 11).

If calls are to be itemised on bills other than as they were dialled, then there must be appropriate information to tally the billing information to what happened in practice. Failure to do this is also a breach of General Conditions (12).


If calls to some geographic (01/02) numbers are billed in an unexpected manner (i.e. not as "Geographic Rate"), there should be an obligation on whoever advertises these numbers to declare the fact. If these are effectively "Business Rate" or "Premium Rate" numbers then I would expect the forthcoming Ofcom regulations to make these numbers subject to the conditions appropriate to how they are billed.

The consultation on the Ofcom proposals failed to address numbers that are treated differently for billing purposes from the range in which they are seen to reside - I cannot find any reference to the ISPs on geographic numbers. This matter may need to be addressed!


As stated previously, I am speculating about what may be happening in this case. I look forward to hearing, fairly shortly, about the full truth of the matter. A systemic billing error by VM is beyond question - the whys and the wherefores are to come.

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bbb_uk
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #48 - Aug 20th, 2011 at 10:09pm
 
SilentCallsVictim wrote on Aug 20th, 2011 at 9:04pm:
Barbara's suggestion of tests using other providers is a sound one.
That is a good idea Barbara thank you.  I have today at 10pm made a test call of 1min to Tesco via their 0121 number.  I made this from my inclusive minutes on my mobile account.  I didn't make it from a landline because I dont get any inclusive minutes because I generally use my mobile for that.

I don't expect to get charged but I will wait a little while and check my online billing account.

Could someone try within their inclusive minutes from a landline who also ideally has online billing so we don't have to wait for upto a month to see if any "operator connected" calls appears?
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #49 - Aug 20th, 2011 at 11:57pm
 
For what it is worth, I called the Tesco number from an AT&T landline through a discount provider. The call was charged at the same rate as that applicable for any other UK geographic or 03 number, ie 2c/minute. Before the call connects, the provider indicates the number of minutes available, thus giving an indication of the applied call charge.

Date/Time/Calling from/Calling to/Rate/Minutes/Total cost ($)

8/20/2011 14:49 561xxxxxxx 441212537500 0.020 1 0.020
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #50 - Aug 21st, 2011 at 12:25am
 
This shows just how broken UK telephony, or more specifically the regulation of UK telephony really is. Here we have a case where the original UK-based contributor is charged 62p for a five minute call; a call that would cost me 10c, or 6p, calling from some 4500 miles away.

A similar scenario here would be a telephone subscriber calling, for example, a bank using a local number (generally free), and being charged for a long distance call (not free) as the call was ultimately handled in the corporate center in say Los Angeles. If this were to happen, on a systemic basis, the consequences for the telephone company would be severe, with either the FCC or state regulators taking action. That assumes that the class action attorneys do not get there first!

The calling party should not be concerned with the call transit mechanism or whether any diversion or intelligent call handling occurs. If a given call is charged at zero, or a specified rate per minute, as given by published tariffs, then that is what the subscriber must pay for the service provided.

One can reasonably assume that Ofcom is already aware of what is happening here. All that needs to happen is for the regulator to inform VM that it is violating various requirements, order it to make full refunds, and slap it with a punitive fine in the hope that it doesn't do it again.
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nicholas43
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #51 - Aug 21st, 2011 at 5:22pm
 
A test call I made via Finarea (18185) shows up, correctly, as
Quote:
21-08-2011      16:21:22      01212537500 00:00:12      0.0500

My hypotheses are that
(a) Tesco has arranged, innocently and legitimately, with its telecoms provider (Cable & Wireless?) that calls to the historic geographic store numbers are routed to the call centre. Possibly C&W pays Tesco 0.5 p a minute (or whatever) for all calls to the call centre; possibly C&W pays Tesco only for calls where the customer actually keyed 0845; possibly Tesco pays C&W for calls re-routed from the geographic numbers.
(b) Noticing this, a bored geek at VM bet his mates that he'd add a tweak to VM's billing system so that calls to Tesco's historic geographic store numbers would get charged at an arbitrary price and listed as operator calls to the 0845 number of Tesco's call centre, and that no-one would notice† for at least three months (or whatever).
(c) Meanwhile VM pays C&W the agreed (tiny) termination rate for all calls to all geographic numbers owned by C&W, including the historic Tesco store numbers (unless the geek has also tweaked that).
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #52 - Aug 21st, 2011 at 7:46pm
 
As I suspected, my test call came back as an inclusive call, not a 0845.

Quote:
20 Aug 11  21:57:45  01212537500  Weekend 00:01:05  £0.000  F


Therefore, the problem in question is all related to VM and them trying to charge for a 0845 even though that wasn't the number dialled and nothing to do with Tesco diverting (or not) the 0121.
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #53 - Aug 22nd, 2011 at 8:11am
 
Okay a further development.

I managed to ask someone who works in the telecom industry.† I asked this: Quote:
Two forum members have reported that whilst calling a Tesco store on their geographical number (0121 253 7500) when it came to billing, VirginMedia bill the call as "Operator Connected" as if they had dialled the 0845 677 9624.

The 0845 is Tesco's number they publish with the geo being the underlying number.

VirginMedia (VM) claim this is because the 0121 is re-directed to the 0845!

Now my limited understanding is that when VM carry the geo call they would terminate it with the called party's TCP and it would then be the TCP which would divert the call to whichever number Tesco have setup. The TCP would pay for this divert and pass the divert costs on to Tesco in some way.

Therefore, VM as the OCP only wouldn't know whether the 0121 dialled is diverted or not!!

Am I right?


The reply: Quote:
Yes, you're broadly correct. If someone dialled the 0121 number and it was diverted to the 0845 by the TCP, then VM would continue to route the call to the TCP. As far as they were concerned, the call would be going to the 0121 number and they should bill accordingly. The leg from the 0121 to the 0845 number should be billed to the holder of the 0121 number (i.e. Tesco).

I can understand why Tesco would want the calls diverting on, because they've got pretty complex call logic on their 0845 number (e.g. typically their colleagues are on mobile phones even within the store, with "roles" such as answering inbound calls being assigned dynamically according to how busy individual colleagues are...the days of it being a phone in the corner of the staff office are long gone), but obviously if they choose to redirect calls from an 01 number, they've got to pick up the cost.

Incidentally VM as the originator will know that the call's been diverted...it's conveyed in the signalling...but the "pivot point" is at the TCP and the only reason they're informed is so they can play the "please wait, this call is being diverted" message if they wish - they wouldn't know where the call's being diverted to (only exception is if Virgin were co-incidentally the TCP)

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« Last Edit: Aug 22nd, 2011 at 8:13am by bbb_uk »  
 
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SilentCallsVictim
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #54 - Aug 22nd, 2011 at 6:29pm
 
Update

My complaint with VM has progressed, within the promised timescale.

More progress is however required - the necessary action has been set in hand.
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #55 - Aug 22nd, 2011 at 9:09pm
 
Perhaps what is going on here is not unconnected with what clive.davison says happened to him when he called Admiral Insurance from his O2 mobile.  Undecided
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« Last Edit: Aug 22nd, 2011 at 9:10pm by Dave »  
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nicholas43
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #56 - Aug 22nd, 2011 at 9:34pm
 
Just for clarity, I don't believe that the 0121 number (etc) is an 'underlying geographical' to the 0845. I think that Tesco has arranged with its provider (Cable & Wireless, we think) that most/all former geographic numbers for its stores now route to the call centre 0845 number, from whence they can be routed either to automated announcements eg about opening hours, or to desks in the call centre (if any), or to the mobiles of staff in the stores.
So the questions that VM are (I predict) about to fudge are:
1. Who tweaked VM's billing system so that calls to Tesco's obsolete geographic store numbers get charged at an arbitrary price, and mis-labelled as operator calls to the 0845 number?
2. Why did the tweaker do this?
3. What termination rate is VM paying to Cable&Wireless for these calls?
4. Where did the tweaker get a list of (some/all?) obsolete Tesco geographic numbers?
5. In addition to the refund they are obviously entitled to, what compensation is VM paying to people caught by this cockup for their annoyance and wasted time?
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« Last Edit: Aug 22nd, 2011 at 9:40pm by nicholas43 »  
 
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SilentCallsVictim
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #57 - Aug 22nd, 2011 at 10:21pm
 
nicholas43 wrote on Aug 22nd, 2011 at 9:34pm:
Just for clarity, ...

I share the belief expressed at the beginning of these remarks.

I intend to see the answers to points 1, 2 and 4 addressed, although in a more comprehensive form, covering all cases where VM charges other than in accordance with its published tariffs.

If VM and / or Tesco, or others, wish to comment on point 3 that is up to them - any such arrangement is private between them.

On point 5, when Ofcom addresses the case of the breach of General Conditions, it will need to rule on the adequacy of whatever remedial action has, by then, been taken by VM.

It will be for the media and Ofcom to judge how far VM has "fudged" its answers. I have already rebutted one inadequate attempt at resolution.
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #58 - Aug 23rd, 2011 at 8:06am
 
Dave wrote on Aug 22nd, 2011 at 9:09pm:
Perhaps what is going on here is not unconnected with what clive.davison says happened to him when he called Admiral Insurance from his O2 mobile.† Undecided
I made the same call from my o2 mobile and it is showing up as an inclusive call.
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SilentCallsVictim
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Reply #59 - Aug 23rd, 2011 at 11:15am
 
A little more information on a related point.


I have just heard from BT that the only exclusions from the principle that numbers beginning 01/02 are treated as "geographic rate" calls are:

∑ Indirect Access Numbers

∑ Numbers used by Internet Service Providers for dial-up internet access

Indirect Access Numbers are those where the caller may access another number that they select.
This does NOT include numbers which are simply subject to a set diversion to another number.


It is acknowledged by BT that the published list of ISP numbers referred to in the full price list no longer exists.

I have been assured that the statement quoted below, which appears repeatedly in the large formal BT Price List (not in the pdf Tariff Guide), will be corrected as shown.

Quote:
Calls to identified Internet Service Providers using geographic numbers will be charged at the rates shown in Table 1b above. A list of these numbers is available on bt.com.


I am content that those calling an ISP or an Indirect Access Number will be aware of the fact. Call cost information could always be more clearly presented, by all parties, however I see no issue with BT here (once the misleading references to a non-existent list have been removed).
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