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Refferals and DPA

Loombucket
Grafter
Posts: 314
Registered: ‎09-06-2007

Refferals and DPA

This last month I signed up two more of my business customers on the same day.  They both had identical Small Business Premier accounts and both activated on the same day.
On checking my current referrals it appeared that one of them had not been applied, so I raised a Question asking for the error to be rectified.  The reply I received was ludicrous - it stated that due to the Data Protection Act they could do nothing about it as far as I was concerned, but suggested that the customer that had been missed should contact PN themselves to ask for it to be sorted out.
Now, would anyone like to tell me how to work out WHICH customer I should ask to pull PN's nuts out of the fire for them, as there's no way of identifying a customer from the referral detailsHuh  Roll eyes
I telephoned CSC to try to get some sense injected into the situation, only to be told that they couldn't help any further due to the aforementioned Data Protection Act!  To make matters worse the guy I was speaking to only suggested that I contact BOTH customers and ask them BOTH to raise Questions, knowing that one of them was going to be wasting both his time and PNs.
Eventually (because I was becoming very frustrated and a little irate by this time) the CSC agent put me on hold and asked someone higher up the totem pole (Bob Pullen I believe, but I could be wrong) who looked into it and pointed out that the referral payments do not go through for 90 days.
Ooops.  Embarrassed
I should have thought of this before raising the subject and would like to apologise profusely to the unnamed CSC agent and also to Bob for wasting their time, but the question of how the call was handled still remains.....
I'm not a legal expert but I am (a) a businessman, and (b) an IT specialist, so I have to be up to speed on issues relating to the DPA.  Now, nowhere in this sorry saga did anyone run the risk of breaking the law here.  PN provide and apply the referral credits, therefore checking and rectifying errors in this processing does NOT transgress the DPA.
Can someone at PN PLEASE instruct the CSC staff that these queries can be handled in a lot more helpful manner without conflict with the DPA?
21 REPLIES
eugeneg
Grafter
Posts: 38
Registered: ‎23-07-2007

Re: An apology and a comment re. Data Protection

I generally dislike the white noise of folks posting to add nothing more than a hear hear, but I too feel strongly that whichever lawyer PN sought advice on regarding the DPA should by suspended from the yard arm of the Lay Society by the short hairs of his wig. 
How can I confirm which of my clients I should continue servicing the broadband requirements of for free, if PN won't even tell me the usernames for which I receive referral payments ?
James
Grafter
Posts: 21,036
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: An apology and a comment re. Data Protection

Hi guys,
First, please let me start by apologising for any of you that have had a poor experience when dealing with our customer services team regarding referrals.  If you have any isolated issues thenb please do feel free to send me or another member of the Comms Team and we'll be sure to get these looked into.
Regarding the Data Protection Act and where it stands regarding referrals and how much information can be disclosed regarding those that you have referred I'm not legally qualified enough to give a stance, but we'll ensure that this is looked into again and that the CSC are briefed so that they know exactly how much information they are allowed to disclose.  Please note, I'm not saying that they are or are not performing this correctly currently - I wouldn't know.
Referrals are very important to us as one of the main key points in our business model is that we are a referral based ISP and we absolutely have to make sure that those who should be rewarded have indeed been so.
So, if I can help with anything, then please do let me know.
aetos
Grafter
Posts: 166
Registered: ‎30-07-2007

Re: An apology and a comment re. Data Protection

HI
Why not have a referrals pending section, from when you sign some one up until the end of 90 days showing the user names awaiting addition to my referals ?Huh
Mark
James
Grafter
Posts: 21,036
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: An apology and a comment re. Data Protection

I'd say that sounds like a perfectly realistic and sensible suggestion.
Rikaitch
Grafter
Posts: 212
Registered: ‎08-06-2007

Re: An apology and a comment re. Data Protection

I also think it would be a good idea to have a "your referrals" section in the portal that actually shows you who's signed up, or maybe an email to your default account letting you know someone's signed up with your referral details, this way you can keep the emails and trace back who signed up for what, when and where.
epsiia
Dabbler
Posts: 14
Registered: ‎02-08-2007

Re: An apology and a comment re. Data Protection

To add to the initial post, I have had a similar experience and been quoted DPA also.
In my case one referal payment was delayed so did not get referral for that month. Problem was that apparently  there is no automatic system for picking this up to credit the following month so unless you raise ticket you will not receive your referral credit. DPA was initially used as excuse for not telling why I could not receive missing payment!
Liam
Grafter
Posts: 2,083
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: An apology and a comment re. Data Protection

Hmm, that is rather strange.  The referrals systems works using what we call 'tokens'.  Basically, when a referral is billed, a 'token' is generated on the referer's account.  When you (as the referrer) are billed, your invoice is calculated - minus the value of the 'tokens' which are then redeemed against your invoice.  The tokens on your account will stay  until redeemed, either by invoice or by credit, and would always be generated by the billing of your referrals.
So, when you don't receive a referral credit one month, it's normally due to your referral not being billed and therefore not generating the token on your account.
This could be for a couple of reasons :-
- They could have failed billing.  If they reprocess their billing automatically the token gets generated, but not always if we  take their payment manually from a card.
- Their billing date has been moved.  If it's moved though, it will generate a token as normal on the new billing date and you would get this redeemed on your account as normal.
It is unfortunate, but there are genuine reasons of Data Protection that mean we often can't release the exact reason for why a referral issue occurs.  For example, if you failed billing on your account, you probably wouldn't want your referrer told that this was the reason why.  We have to be careful about what we reveal about referrer's accounts, unless you have access to their account.
If you ever have any issues that do require looking into, and you feel like you're not getting anywhere with the CSC, you could always pop a note in here or PM one of us and we'll take a look and see if there is anything that can be done.
pcsolution
Newbie
Posts: 8
Registered: ‎13-06-2007

Who did I refer? Who is this "new_signup" fella?

Well... I know who I referred, but I don't know if I'm getting credit for all of them, because every referral on my listing just says "new_signup".  Sad
I've mentioned this before but didn't get any real response... so here it is again.
Surely, PlusNet can find a way to list the usernames of the people who have signed up and given my username as referrer?  Since there is a financial aspect to this, it is important that referrers can ensure they are getting the right discount
My discount seems to go up and down at random, and tracking which accounts are included is impossible if they're not uniquely identified.  Of course, each month I might sign one or two up, and one might quit occasionally... it just isn't trackable and it should be.  Cry
Anyone else got thoughts on this?
Community Veteran
Posts: 14,469
Registered: ‎30-07-2007

Re: Who did I refer? Who is this "new_signup" fella?

This has been discussed at length many times. The answer PN give is they can't give out the username as it would then violate the data protection act for the referree.
James
Grafter
Posts: 21,036
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: Who did I refer? Who is this "new_signup" fella?

Hi there,
It is currently company policy to not disclose this information as it would be seen to be a violation of the data protection act.  However, we are soon to be starting work to allow referrers to take part in a partner programme whereby they will be able to view details of their referrered customers.  Once there is more news on this then we will post accordingly.
pcsolution
Newbie
Posts: 8
Registered: ‎13-06-2007

Re: Who did I refer? Who is this "new_signup" fella?

Quote from: Peter
This has been discussed at length many times. The answer PN give is they can't give out the username as it would then violate the data protection act for the referree.

I don't think that can be right.  It is quite common for organisations not to read the act properly, and simply put blanket refusals in place - effectively supplying no information at all, even though there is nothing in the act that prevents it. 
In this case, the reverse is arguably true... i.e. that there is a legal obligation under which the information must be supplied. 
The referral discount is effectively a commission, so legally it must be accurate and it must be possible for the referrer to determine the accuracy or otherwise of the commission earned.  PlusNet's statement to referrers should enable them to clearly identify against which "debt" PlusNet are crediting funds.  Data protection cannot stand in the way of that, because it would permit PlusNet to commit fraud by underpaying referrers.
Are BT breaking the Data Protection Act when they detail the phone numbers we called on our statement?  No; in fact if they di not list them they would be compelled by law to do so if we disputed the bill.  Likewise, if I dispute the referral discount, PlusNet could not refuse to detail the usernames they are crediting - the Data Protection Act cannot apply where credits and debits on a statement are concerned.  They must be identifiable.
In any case, the username is not useful to the referrer in any way on its own, so once again giving it out doesn't break data protection.  In fact, since the username alone doesn't even identify any individual, and isn't in isolation related to any person or organisation... again, Data Protection does not apply.
If I try to sign up and choose a username that isn't available, PlusNet tells me it is already in use and thus I have been informed of an active username.  If that doesn't break data protection, then nor does informing me of the usernames from which I am receiving referral earnings.
Furthermore, the new signup knows my username, so why should I not know theirs?  Was it a security risk for me to give them my username as a referrer?  If not, the data protection act does not apply.
Further, PlusNet could ask the new signup for permission to inform their referrer that their account is active.  A bonus would be that referrers could then politely thank new signups for using the referral scheme.
I note a response saying there might bea partner programme - this might be of interest... but if Data Protection truly is the reason for withholding the information, I don't see how it can be made available through that route.  Either it is confidential under the act or it isn't!
James
Grafter
Posts: 21,036
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: Who did I refer? Who is this "new_signup" fella?

Hi there,
I'm no legal expert, but here's my opinion on why we do what we do.
I beleive that we refuse to disclose this information because, whilst the referred customer does indeed know your username, they have not consented to our passing on their personal details, such as username, telephone number, etc.  So as such, we would be passing on personal information without consent, thus violating the data protection act.
Like I said, I'm no lawyer, just offering a laymans opinion.
pcsolution
Newbie
Posts: 8
Registered: ‎13-06-2007

Re: Who did I refer? Who is this "new_signup" fella?

OK, they have not consented.  But their username, as I pointed out, is not in any way "personal details", and I didn't ask for their phone number, surname, company name, postcode, account type, monthly fee, da de da de da dit.....
In the same way, my account number at my bank is not "personal details" unless my bank tells someone an additional identifiable piece of information clearly identifying me as the only possible owner of that account.  Nor is my telephone number "personal details" unless it is listed alongside my name and address.
This issue arises from quoting of the Data Protection Act by people who don't understand it and have probably never read it.
I'll say it again.  Nothing about the username (on its own as it would be on a referral values statement) could lead anyone in any way to personal data belonging to the person who registered it.  Therefore, it is not forbidden under the Data Protection Act to list the username as evidence of a referral commission being properly applied.  End of story.
If the above statement is wrong, we need PlusNet to explain how. 
If the above statement is right, then it is time for PlusNet to acknowledge that they should be listing the usernames to achieve the proper level of transparency on referral value statements.
If there is uncertainty, PlusNet needs to obtain legal clarification and post it in the referrals section so customers are aware of the situation before they refer new business; as it currently stands, PlusNet appears not to want anyone to know whether all referrals are being properly credited - which puts the whole scheme under suspicion as a possible source of fraud.
This is a serious issue, not just a whingeing complaint!
cp:blue Full quote of preceding post removed. mod:end
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,850
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: Who did I refer? Who is this "new_signup" fella?

Hi there.
I fully appreciate the concerns raised over the years, many of them my own,  regarding the identification of referrered accounts. However, we are absolutely bound by DPA issues in this regard for a multitude of reasons and this is one of the reasons why I am driving a fully blown partner programme.
Let me assure you that out of the many thousands of referrers we have, there is absolutely no suspicion of fraud. That comment is harsh and unfair.
Are you guessing that the DPA is not applicable here or do you know that for a fact?
What information would you need to know about some random person who you have never met but who clicks a referral link on a website and subsequently signs up? What purpose would it serve knowing their username?
I am not being dismissive here but simply trying to gain an understanding of your needs.
Having, in my former life, referred and managed many hundreds of accounts to PlusNet products, I have extensive knowledge of how the system works and its warts. I am also very much up to speed on what we can and can' t say or divulge. There are many ways to track and monitor referrals which you knowingly make, but those which appear randomly, without your prior knowledge, present a totally different situation.
I am keen to simplify this process and indeed I will. I have previously discussed my thoughts in a recent thread in this forum. I agree that there may be a misunderstanding of our requirements under the DPA when it somes to certain referrals, but not all and it is these areas I will clarify and resolve.
Please understand that part of my role is to ensure that the referral programme which we offer to you guys is as straight forward as it can possibly be. I am well aware that it is cumbersome and problematic and this I will fix. But I will not bend the rules or break the law, however I will ensure that we deliver what works for you guys and makes referring as easy and straightforward as possible.