22 June 2017

It takes 18 months for Ealing Council to do the right thing

The above image is Ealing Council's reverse date order log of all events for one PCN. If you look at the seventh line from the bottom you will see that it is a statutory document which has been returned. The only document issued at that stage was a postal PCN for a bus lane contravention. That should signal a pause in the process whilst the council establishes why the document came back (somewhere between the DVLA and Ealing Council the address got mangled, it was correctly recorded at DVLA). Did it stop the process? did it hell as like. The very next day the council issued the Enforcement Notice (not to be confused with a Notice of Enforcement) which is the bus lane equivalent of a parking Notice to Owner. From 15 October onwards every action taken by Ealing Council was ultra vires, 'beyond their powers', or just plain illegal to you and me, as well as immoral but council parking departments are often a moral free zone.

Mr Mustard's chronology in forward date order is easier to follow:

Following the filing of a witness statement, the council get the chance to reconsider their position and cancel, the smart choice, or to refer the matter to the tribunal. They chose the latter and then got hit with one of Mr Mustard's skeleton arguments, the type of argument which a certain adjudicator has said looks nothing like a skeleton, it being more than bare bones:


At this point many councils recognise they are in for a battle and gracefully withdraw, especially as failure looked inevitable on the PCN service point alone, but no, Ealing Council let the matter go to a hearing. Mr Mustard had 6 hearings that day and didn't expect that disposing of Ealing would slow him down much. The Adjudicator was more than fair to Ealing, who had been given 7 days notice of the skeleton argument so had ample time to respond to it, and he asked them to clarify two points which was too much for Ealing. Finally after 18 months of almost relentless pursuit (a bit of a hiatus in the middle) they withdrew the Appeal which automatically means the cancellation of the PCN.

Late is usually regarded as within 4 days of the hearing.

What a palaver, one which Mr Mustard is never defeated by, he simply reacts properly and in time to every piece of paper.

Ealing Council were bang out of order in continuing to escalate the case after the return of the postal PCN. Just looking at the file at that time would have revealed the address error and they could & should have sent a fresh PCN to the correct address or cancelled (a fresh PCN might have been out of time but that isn't the question today). The way they were headed the matter would have been with the bailiff before long and bailiffs don't listen to not had the PCN stories, they just take your car (generally speaking). Ealing Council are guilty, in Mr Mustard's view, of an abuse of process. What a pity there isn't a regular external audit scheme to check that they are not misusing their powers.

Councils have more power than they can be trusted with.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

21 June 2017

Haringey Council - double vision

A friend, Mr P, came to see Mr Mustard today and he brought with him the above PCNs.

Mr P, not the best man for dealing with paperwork but he at least keeps it all, has no idea how he came to have two identical original print PCNs.

Mr Mustard has never seen this before so he has no idea either. It just should not happen, especially with two different signatures by the same person, perhaps caused by the blurred double vision.

All Mr Mustard can say for sure is that a lot goes wrong in Haringey.

The representations are going off tomorrow, not sure which PCN they will be against, the one on the left, or the one on the right, or both? and there may be another story about Mr P and these tickets in due course.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

A little story about Mr Mustard's business from years ago. Clients used to ask him about service levels. Mr Mustard used to say 'we are average but everyone else that we follow is useless so we look fantastic' and then he would smile at his clients who were never sure if he was joking or not. For some reason Haringey Council parking 'service' reminded him of that.

20 June 2017

Tower Hamlets - no paying out policy

On 22 March, Miss A's car was towed to the pound. She paid the £65 PCN charge and a £200 removal fee to recover her car. Mr Mustard took up the cudgels on her behalf and a hearing at the independent tribunal ensued on 24 June. Mr Mustard/Miss A lost on the PCN but won on the tow away so £200 was directed by the adjudicator to be returned 'without delay'.

As of 20 June the refund had not been made (a bit rich when you can only recover your car by paying instantly) so Mr Mustard decided to ask for the procedures which are in place to ensure that the council do follow the decisions of adjudicators, which they are legally bound to do.

Here they aren't:

That can't be right surely. The council will have plenty of policies and procedures to make sure you pay on time, as well as a 50% supplement if you miss the 28 day payment deadline, but none at all to make sure they issue refunds quickly. 

The council have a general duty at law to be procedurally fair; clearly they aren't.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

19 June 2017

26 coincidences in Charnwood Place, N20.

Mr Mustard was approached in his own road by a man with a PCN for parking adjacent to the dropped kerb just above the middle of the picture. Odd thought Mr Mustard as if you go straight across the road there isn't a corresponding kerb to make a crossover for pedestrians, there is no driveway there (in fact there is a fence) and there isn't a cycle lane so the three possible reasons for the issue of a dropped kerb PCN did not exist.

What also exercised Mr Mustard was that the traffic warden had stood to the right of the estate agent's board so as to get in the dropped kerb at that point and make the situation look as bad as possible. This is borderline fraud at worst and misrepresentation at best.

Nowadays you can look at lots of data about all Barnet Council PCN on this excellent link. Mr Mustard has to accept that in this respect Barnet Council are being open and transparent. Mr Mustard doesn't use the data very much due to shortage of free time but does look at the data now & then. 

He thought he would see how often this little backwater had seen a PCN issued. The answer was 26 times.

Every single PCN had been issued for the dropped kerb.

Even more coincidental every single PCN had been issued by the same traffic warden despite them not having regular rounds so the road has been at the mercy of all 50 traffic wardens, none of the other 49 having seen fit to issue at this spot (well done the 49).

Mr Mustard thought this was a bit naughty and with his challenge to the PCN (his client was worried that the £110 would wipe out his earnings for the day but Mr Mustard assured him the PCN was fated for cancellation so he was not to pay the 50%) he also raised a complaint that no contravention had occurred and that the traffic warden was in a minority of one who thought this was a contravention and that there was no traffic management purpose (the whole point of the PCN regime after all).

It only took a day for a council officer (the traffic warden is externally employed by a contractor, NSL Ltd) to agree with Mr Mustard that the location 'does not meet the criteria necessary to be enforced as a dropped footway restriction'. 

They were also going to assess whether the traffic warden needed further training. Mr Mustard doesn't think so, he knew the rules exactly hence the dodgy photo, but in the area of fairness & probity, the traffic warden concerned has had his day of reckoning and will not be wandering down Charnwood Place in the future, hazards Mr Mustard.

Sadly, probably half of the 26 other people wrongly given a PCN will have paid it and there is no mechanism, save the goodwill of the council (in short supply), to force the council to make refunds in this situation. A honest council would, but.......

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

16 June 2017

TfL - avoiding the tough questions and the easy ones.

Mr G's house was undergoing major refurbishment. If the builders were not on site there was no letterbox to put his post through. He made other arrangements with the Royal Mail but they went wrong. This meant that he did not receive the cctv based PCN dated 8 November 16 for allegedly stopping on a red route where prohibited on 4 November.

Postal PCN of this type have a nasty sting in the tale. Not long after 28 days have elapsed a Charge Certificate is served. This is a demand for an extra 50%. Thus the first that Mr G knew of the event was a demand for £195 dated 15 December 16.

On 6 January 17 Mr G heard of Mr Mustard though a mutual friend. Mr G asked for help.

On 13 January Mr Mustard wrote to TfL and asked them the straight question, was the PCN returned to TfL.

On 19 January TfL registered the PCN as a debt at the TEC (think of it as a PCN debt register within the County Court). The standard £8 court fee was added.

On 25 January Mr G signed, & Mr Mustard filed at the TEC, a witness statement that the PCN had not been received. This entitled TfL to issue a fresh one.

On 27 January TfL wrote to Mr G responding to Mr Mustard's letter (very poor form and possibly calculated to undermine the representative) as follows:

Do you see an answer to the simple question as to whether they got the PCN back undelivered? No. Silence implies assent. The correspondence never claimed to be a representation, just a factual request but that didn't suit TfL so they ignored it. Silly billies.

Also on 27 January the TEC cancelled the charge certificate and told TfL as such.

On 17 February TfL as was their right, a foolish move but there you go, sent a fresh PCN in the post to Mr G. By then we were back to £130.

On 3 March Mr Mustard made the representations (challenge to you) on line in the name of Mr G:

On 28 March TfL wrote to Mr G as if he had not made any representations at all

There was no letter, there were clear representations made on line and Mr G not writing back at this time did not give TfL the right to do anything other than consider the representations made.

On 4 April Mr Mustard wrote in Mr G's name to say that representations had been made and then he kindly popped them into the appropriate legally defined categories.

On 12 May TfL sent a Notice of Rejection. This is meant to tell you why the particular representations have not been accepted. Can you see the reasons?

There was more nauseatingly sanctimonious irrelevant drivel after that but nowhere did TfL explain why they were rejecting any of the three clearly made representations. TfL offered to accept £65 instead of £130 if Mr G did not take them to appeal (which costs them £30). With the cast iron case that Mr Mustard was looking at there was zero prospect of Mr G having to get his wallet out so the inducement fell on deaf ears . Mr Mustard wrote to Mr G:

I suspect that TfL will not contest the Appeal once it has been made. 

This was for several reasons one of which, an unassailable ground, was that TfL did not serve the Notice of Rejection until more than 56 days after the representations had been served on them. That timetable is set out in law for parking contraventions (it is longer for moving traffic, but stopping = parking).

On 24 May, Mr Mustard hand delivered the Notice of Appeal to the tribunal (one of seven he handed in that day). The date for an oral hearing was set, 21 June 17. Yesterday Mr Mustard started checking to see if any evidence had been filed, instead he found that TfL had decided on 9 June to not contest the Appeal = they will cancel the PCN. A pity they have not told either Mr G or Mr Mustard as yet.

What lessons should they learn from this sorry tale:

1.  If Mr Mustard asks you a question you should answer it even if that is to your detriment.
2.   Mr Mustard contests every single Notice of Rejection at the tribunal so think before you Reject.
3.  It is necessary to at least tackle the representations, even if you answer them badly. Failing to tackle them at all is a procedural impropriety which is a guaranteed win at the tribunal.
4.  Issuing a Notice of Rejection out of time is also a procedural impropriety, one which Mr Mustard will spot.
5.  A proper system should be put in place to deal with undelivered mail. It is dishonest to plough on as if nothing has happened.
6.  If you behave in the manner in which an enforcement authority should behave, with the utmost probity, you will not get your dirty linen aired on a well read blog.

Think about it TfL.

This case reinforces Mr Mustard's view that there needs to be an external, at least annual, audit of parking enforcement within local authorities to proactively assure the public that authorities are acting honestly because they sure as heck aren't. The external auditors need to be able to impose sanctions and order redress for wrongdoing to make councils less money and more service motivated than they currently are.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

15 June 2017

Hunt the parking meter?






For each PCN that progresses to a hearing at London Tribunals, the home of the independent adjudicators, Mr Mustard has to study a 50-100 page evidence pack. That always contains a Case Summary which often isn't a summary at all as it runs to 3 or more pages.

These cases summaries often contain some horrific insights into council thinking, such as this one:

'It is not a requirement to advise motorists of the presence of a Pay & Display machine'.

Oh yes it is.

Barnet Council are keen to make motorists use the mobile phone to effect payment and rather than use nudge theory they used blunt force by removing 500 perfectly good working cash meters and putting nothing in their place. That was an action which probably didn't meet with the requirements of the Equality Act as it discriminated against a section of society, disproportionately the elderly who are less likely to own a mobile phone, but after an outcry 50 credit/debit card meters were installed in car parks and High Streets, which was the very minimum provision the council could get away with.

When you park in a pay parking bay somewhere in Barnet, where will the meter be?

A  Within a few feet of you in sight
B  100m up the road to the left
C  100m up the road to the right
D  Across the road
E  Around the corner out of sight
F  Nowhere (the most likely answer)

This is why the sign needs to tell you where to find the meter, so that you don't traipse off in the wrong direction looking for a meter that isn't there, during which time you will be ticketed for not paying. Here is a sample of the sort of sign that has existed for donkey's years:

Why does this sign exist if mentioning meters is not necessary? It is because this law about traffic orders says it must.

One of the effects of the Order is that you must pay to park, either by telephone or by using a meter, so both must be mentioned on signs at locations where both payment methods are possible.

Mr Mustard is going to chalk up another easy win at the tribunal.

What bothers him though is that he knows the law but the typical man/woman in the street doesn't (and he only knows because he has spent 5 years studying arcane parking law) and many people, faced with what is a pack of lies in a council letter or case summary, pay up, or lose their Appeal, because they don't know enough about the subject.

Councils can get away with almost any wrong argument in their tribunal evidence because adjudicators only decide Appeals based upon the arguments put in front of them (occasionally they will find an error like this in the evidence but not routinely) so if you don't know the council is spouting rubbish you are less likely to win.

The answer is for the general public to become a little like Mr Mustard and learn as much as they can about the subject. Mr Mustard would not mind if a number of you were to clone yourselves as replicas of him. He will teach you all he can, mustard-men and mustardettes.

If you are handling your own Appeal and think there is something amiss in the evidence you have been presented with, do feel free to send an email to mrmustard@zoho.com for free advice.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

14 June 2017

Barking & Dagenham Council - pathetic behaviour

Back in November 16 Mr Mustard made a complaint to Barking & Dagenham Council about their use of an Outstanding Payment Reminder, a document outside of the statutorily defined process for PCNs. The complaint was 'disagreed' but as the response didn't actually deal with any of Mr Mustard's substantive points he asked for a review. B&D lost, mis-filed or ignored most correspondence to the point at which, more than 6 months after he started down the complaints process Mr Mustard tweeted the Chief Executive, who was formally pretty senior at Barnet and so their paths had crossed, in the nicest possible way, before. As was entirely predictable a Senior Complaints Investigator then hastened to respond to Mr Mustard on 7 June. The complaint response included the following paragraph:


The Chief Executive should have marked their card in complaints but doesn't seem to have done so.

On 12 June Mr Mustard wrote:

Thank you for your response. I would be pleased to see a copy of the revised 'pre-debt reminder' (Outstanding payment reminder) once it has been decided upon.

On 13 June B&D wrote back:

I write further to my email of 12 June 2017 as officers have completed a review of the pre-debt registration letter.

Officers have told me they do not plan to make any changes to the pre-debt registration letter as our legal requirement to notify a motorist of any further right of appeal is satisfied in previous correspondence.

So in 24 hours we have gone from a letter being 'reviewed' to nothing having changed. They think they are in 'Yes, Minister' at Barking & Dagenham. They aren't.

Did they really think that Mr Mustard would stand for being fobbed off? There is more action to come on this matter.

Should a council say they are going to review a letter, the complaints about which have been known to them for 6 months, when their clear intention was to do nothing at all? That is not the standard of consideration Mr Mustard expects from public servants although low behavioural morals do appear to be standard in parking.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

13 June 2017

Barnet Council: No, No, Yes

Mr Mustard's client, Mr K, was given a PCN for being 'Parked without payment of the parking charge' which wasn't the case, he had paid but he hadn't got around to displaying when he got waylaid in the street to discuss a pressing matter of business. It might seem pedantic to challenge such a PCN but that is only giving the council some of its own medicine. Had the PCN been for 'Failing to pay & display' then Mr K would have been well advised to pay up at 50%.

So it was that Mr Mustard made the informal challenge in February 17 and sent in a copy of the above payment receipt and pointed out that the contravention, as alleged, had not taken place so the PCN should please be cancelled. 

The reply was only 10 days in coming:

Not the most accurate of replies. Firstly, the bay clearly wasn't for people paying to park by phone or even for people paying by phone to park as otherwise there wouldn't be parking meters issuing receipts. Secondly, Mr Mustard sent a copy of the receipt for parking to support his argument as he knows how councils don't believe anything unless you send them proof.

Mr Mustard told his client to calmly await the Notice to Owner as he knew he was using a winning argument, it was just a question of time. In early April the said Notice arrived. The same day Mr Mustard made the identical challenge to the one he had made in February. Just over a month later (a little slower than usual to respond) a Notice of Rejection reached Mr K. It said:

This was a second act of wilful blindness as Mr Mustard's copy of his formal representations contained an image of the receipt for paying which was 7cm high. Oh well, tribunal time said Mr Mustard.

Mr Mustard duly filed an Appeal at London Tribunals at the end of May. The Grounds of Appeal were that 'The contravention did not occur'. As soon as the Appeal was filed a charge is raised to cover the costs of running the tribunal of c.£30. Last Friday Mr K received a letter saying that Barnet Council would not be opposing the Appeal and thus the PCN is cancelled. These are Mr K's words:

What I don't understand is why they insist on going through the whole rejection route when they must know that they are going to fail.

Mr Mustard knows the answer to that. It is that apathy sets in and/or people believe that the council will be correct, bizarrely even when they are wrong. The public don't understand that you can make the same challenge 3 times, once when you get the PCN on your car, once when you get the Notice to Owner, and a third time when you go to the tribunal. In fact, presenting the same argument three times plays well with adjudicators who see an unchanging argument which is more likely to be true than that you were loading, then you were unloading and then you were dropping off your granny - that is the way to lose.

Mr Mustard knows the system and never runs out of steam. If you are going to fight a PCN prepare yourself to make the same argument three times, stick to the timetable and lodge your Notice of Appeal with London Tribunals (you can do it in 5 minutes on line now) and sometimes, maybe once in every 6 or 7 Appeals, the council will throw in the towel rather than waste the 2 or 3 hours that is necessary to produce all the evidence for the tribunal.

Persistence pays off.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

 

9 June 2017

Barnet - the council that likes to say 'No'

Yesterday, Mr Mustard received the below rejection of an informal challenge (an informal challenge is one made in response to a PCN served on street or in a car park).

Mr Mustard didn't provide any evidence? How odd, as here is the challenge he sent in.


That seems pretty conclusive evidence to Mr Mustard, the supplier of the PayByPhone service says there was a problem with texting that day. The council are unable to corroborate this statement, perhaps because they haven't tried to? or maybe they just don't want to as then they would have to think seriously about cancelling the PCN. It makes Mr Mustard wonder about all the times that the council say that there were no reported problems with the PayByPhone system, that might be because there is no system to report such problems to the council from their supplier.

Here is an extract of the tribunal decision on which Mr Mustard will claim the persuasive support (as it doesn't set a binding precedent).

Mr Mustard's client's payment went through 2 days later, which is why she doesn't show as having paid on the day in question. Mr Mustard doesn't think it reasonable that Barnet Council expect her to have waited in her car until she got the confirmatory text.

What peevs Mr Mustard is that the council can write such blatant rubbish in response to clear, evidenced arguments. Barnet Council have a general duty at law to be procedurally fair and Mr Mustard can't see how they have been in this case. Had his client been representing herself she might easily have accepted the council's opinion as gospel and paid up the 50% to avoid going to the tribunal, writing two further challenges and then attending at the Chancery Lane hearing centre. Mr Mustard has a block booking at the adjudication centre so one more case (on top of the 7 he has on his next appearance) is no big deal.

Mr Mustard suspects however, that this case won't be going anywhere near an adjudicator as his next email is to the parking manager with a complaint that his representations are not being properly considered, they are being rejected for nonsensical reasons. Mr Mustard doesn't think he will be amused at yet another trashing of the council's image. The rejection was probably written by an employee of NSL but at the behest of a council 'officer' (staff member).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


Update: 12 June 17

Well that didn't take long. If you complain to the correct person, the parking Manager (poor lad), and have a point, he sorts it out fast.

Oops, there is a contact with NSL Ltd not NSL Services Ltd; service was certainly missing!

7 June 2017

Six of the worst


Barnet Council are concerned at their poor perception in resident surveys, the above figures being from Autumn 2016 show that 47% of residents think that the parking 'service' is poor or extremely poor. Quite simply, Barnet Council don't help themselves as when they get it wrong they don't put the community first, they just worry about the money.

Usually when Barnet Council get a PCN wrong Mr Mustard asks the council to apologise and to compensate the motorist for their time, trouble, stress and inconvenience (do bear in mind that if you do not contest a PCN which is blatantly 100% wrongly issued you will, if you do nothing, end up with a bailiff clamping your car). Every time the council refuse to compensate (they usually do apologise).

So here are 6 examples of the council getting it wrong recently and thinking that the mere fact they have cancelled is adequate recompense.

Error #1 on 9th & 14th December 2016

Amber had to give way twice to oncoming traffic outside East Barnet school and there is nowhere else to stop except on top of the yellow zig zag markings for a few seconds. As blogged here. Both PCN were cancelled. No compensation was offered.

Error #2 on 9 February 2017

Bill stopped on the school zig zags at 11:09, the restricted times being 8.00 - 9.30am and 2.45 to 5.15 pm so Bill was not in contravention.He got a PCN through the post. He received an apology, via Mr Mustard and this in response to the perfectly reasonable request for compensation.

Error #3 on 17 March 2017

Claire stopped in a box junction when she shouldn't. She received two PCN, just 3 PCN numbers apart, on the same day. One was issued by camera A and the other by camera B. A classic case of joined up government not being in operation. Clearly, inadequate checks are made before PCN are issued. Claire paid the first PCN and Mr Mustard got the second one cancelled. An apology was offered although the question of compensation was ignored.

Error #4 on 3 May 2017

A PCN was issued to David for parking across a dropped kerb which led nowhere. The council agreed that it did not meet the criteria for enforcement. They did not apologise and that may be because Mr Mustard did not ask one, nor for compensation in this case, about which he will write a specific blog shortly.

Error #5 on 9 May 17

Eric was parked on a single yellow line restricted, within a cpz, for 1 hour only. Eric knew the rules but his traffic warden didn't and the traffic warden photographed the sign within a bay which only ever applies to that bay. Everybody knows that except the traffic warden who when requested refused to phone his office to check which was unwise and unhelpful. Mr Mustard asked for the new traffic warden to receive further training. He did not request an apology nor compensation and neither arrived.

Error #6 on 16 May 17

Fiona was parked legally within a 9.30 - 10.30am bay at 14:52 and another new traffic warden issued a PCN.  Mr Mustard asked for an apology and compensation and got the former but not the latter, to which the response was:

The council are not being straight in their response. If there is maladministration they can pay compensation. Every client of Mr Mustard ends up £25 out of pocket as that is the amount which he requests be paid to the North London Hospice or directly to his fighting fund to help others.

It is not the case that the council is unable to pay compensation it is that they are unwilling to which is an entirely different mindset. Whilst they have that mindset and keep making mistakes in penalising entirely innocent people the ranking of parking in the eyes of residents will not improve (unless the survey is rigged in some way).

It is a funny old world. You make a parking or driving mistake and you have to pay £60, £110 or £130 as a penalty to the council. If they may a mistake the council don't think there should be a penalty. This is not an equitable situation. There is nothing to make a council more careful. Mr Mustard will keep looking over their shoulder.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

5 June 2017

Traffic warden turnover in Barnet

Being a traffic warden requires a mastery of a highly complex set of rules. You also need a suitable skill set to be able to smoothly interact with the public & generate good public relations. It takes time and money to impart the necessary technical knowledge and time on the beat to develop good technique. Clearly therefore it is advantageous to all parties to retain traffic wardens who have developed the necessary competence as it makes life easier. There are usually about 50 traffic wardens on the books in Barnet. 

Mr Mustard had noticed a number of schoolboy errors by new traffic wardens in 2017 and it got him thinking about staff retention. His calculations are that 33 new wardens started in 2015 and the same again in 2016 and that was caused by the 26 who left in 2015 and another 34 in 2016. There was a blip caused by staffing up for night duty in 2016 but Mr Mustard thinks that the bonanza which management thought they would get from issuing PCNs in the wee hours has not materialised and so the number of night wardens has been reduced. Certainly, Mr Mustard has had hardly any dead of the night PCN to deal with recently.

Staff turnover at a rate of over 60% a year is not the way in which you get the highest quality performance from a team.

Certainly something isn't going well in the selection process (although the pool to choose from is of lower paid employees and other menial jobs may look more attractive or be less stressful) based upon the quick exit of the November 16 traffic warden intake.

Mr Mustard wonders if traffic wardens are being trained up to the proper standard before being let loose to operate alone on the streets or if they are being sent out to sink or swim and then if they prove they can swim they get given a set of flippers and the full training? Information about parking departments can be sent, by using a disposable email address you set up for the purpose so that you cannot be traced (Mr Mustard will keep your details confidential but prefers not to have them) or one of the services mentioned here. Send your secret message to mrmustard@zoho.com

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

1 June 2017

Rubbish collection of direct debit

Have any other Barnet businesses had such a letter because the council/Crapita cancelled the existing direct debit (perhaps related to the bank account change) and then put the onus on the customer to sort it out, necessitating dozens of calls to a number you could not get through on?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard