Saturday, 16 December 2006

Account number 5xxxxxxxxxx

We have, I believe, all heard of the urban legend of the early days of computerised accounts when a (pre-privatisation) Gas Board sent out a final demand for an outstanding account of £0.0s.0d and followed it up with ever increasingly severe notices of solicitors[1] and court action until the customer relented and sent them a cheque in that sum.
I would have thought that if any such system had, in fact, gone live it would have been de-bugged by now. It seems not. It may not have been an urban legend after all.
My last account was rather heavy and I made an arrangement with you to pay it over two months. Last payday I remembered, ‘Oh yes, I owe three hundred quid to the Electric,’ and duly paid it. Woe is me! I neglected the 18p.
This morning I received a notice demanding that I pay the ‘Outstanding Account £0.18’ immediately, which I shall, of course, do without rancour, regret or (fortunately) any sacrifice or difficulty thanks to the convenience of internet banking.
In the interests of minimising the costs to the environment and the cost of postage to the shareholders and customers of Scottish Power, might I hopefully suggest that your gallant software engineers insert a line or two of code to add outstanding balances of less than a pound or two to the next bill rather than churn out such seriously worded but silly and expensive demands.
Rafiq Mahmood