Watchdog is a long running consumer programme that started in 1980 and champions the rights of the customer. It is currently presented by Nicky Campbell, Julia Bradbury and Paul Heiney (of “That’s Life” fame). Each programme features experiences with particular companies and follow-ups.
Virgin Media’s Pay Per View service for movies was featured in the programme. It works in a similar way to Sky with the ability to pause live tv and have good quality recording, as well as paying for movies “on demand”. Susan Steele signed up and was surprised by the size of the bills, which contained many errors and references to films that she had not seen. Another family had been charged for films and were out of the country and did not have the box or television connected. In response to these anomalies, Virgin Media investigated and found that each of the customers featured in the programme have been the victims of fraud, with the police being involved. The accounts were written off.
Over the years, BT have been featured many times on the programme. It is the biggest telephone provider with 18 million customers. However, during the last few months, there had been complaints that new lines had not been connected and engineers had not turned up. Bills had also been issued for installations that had not taken place and one occasion BT issued a notice saying that they would be disconnecting a line that had never been connected. In response to these claims, BT had mentioned “teething problems” and the failure of IT systems.
The programme also had a feature on the collection of household rubbish. 140 Councils in the UK had switched from weekly to fortnightly collection of rubbish, interspersed with the collection of recycled waste. Watchdog were contacted about the presence of rats in Oxford, as a consequence of the change in collections. In Newquay, residents were told just to leave bin liners of rubbish outside their homes (rather than being placed in bins) and this had led to more rubbish on the streets and an increase in the number of seagulls. People had been fined for placing the wrong items out for recycling or over-filling of rubbish bins. Watchdog would be collecting more information from consumers on this issue over coming weeks.
Watchdog works well as a consumer programme as it gives people an opportunity to vent and raise their concerns over poor service. In most cases, the sheer fact that a company is featured on the programme is enough to get positive action or compensation.