Once again I must repeat that, if you play a radio in your store, you need both a PRS and a PPL licence. I know this is a bit like telling an off-licensee that (s)he needs one licence to sell beer and another one to sell whisky but there you go.

The main problem that PPL faces as it chases to catch up with PRS on the licence front is that many retailers genuinely don’t know that they need both in order to play a radio in their store.

Steve and Lesley Edwards certainly were not aware. When Steve rang from their store, Seaview News in Cleethorpes, he said: “We pay our way and do everything by the rules. We paid PRS £91 per year for the past two years to play the radio. Fair dues.”

But he was staggered to receive an invoice “out of the blue” from PPL demanding back fees for £400.

It turned out that PPL had rung previously and had asked a member of staff whether there was a radio in the place. This further ticked off Steve as the member of staff was not authorised to speak on behalf of the business. But it was better than my initial thought that PRS had passed on info to PPL. I can now say, categorically, that was not the case.

“What made it even more annoying was the bill came from a recovery agent, ie a debt collector,” adds Steve.

Some heated exchanges took place although Steve says that, in the end, everyone tried to be helpful and the amount was reduced by half and Steve will pay.

PPL sent me a very full reply to all the points (too full to reproduce I’m afraid) and has reiterated why it does what it does collecting on behalf of musicians.

As I have said before, my daughter is a mezzo soprano. Since she is still studying for her B.Mus we have also seen a large number of performances by her contemporaries, all very talented yet almost all facing a slim-line future money-wise. Very few musicians get paid what they’re worth but the public’s perception is skewed by the fact that the tiny bunch at the top get paid well over the odds. Like footballers.

We’ve got you taped!

Amit Patel got in touch on email to question whether Opus Energy was a good’un as he’d seen it on a utilities-switching site.

It turns out the reason the name is not that well known is because Opus doesn’t do domestic, only commercial, but I also noticed on the Opus website that it had just signed up Virgin Media so not bad going. I told Amit I’d use his query in my next column as it would make a change to write something positive about energy companies.

This prompted another email from Amit who sent me the following superscam reported by the Daily Mirror’s investigative journalist duo Andrew Penman and Nick Sommerlad.

The story tells of a blatantly doctored recording that tricked a Stratford-upon-Avon shopkeeper, Alison Gardner, into a costly and unwanted energy contract after she was phoned by a caller claiming to be from E.on, her existing supplier.

The resulting tape was edited and sold to energy broking firm First Choice Marketing, which in turn sold it to E.on, which was apparently delighted that Alison had readily agreed to a new three-year deal.

Trouble was, she had switched a few weeks earlier to a different energy supplier with a £1,200 cheaper deal.

E.on said they had listened to the tape and it sounded fine to them but Alison was so ticked off that she paid £1,500 for a forensic audio analysis of the recording.

The experts found that the beginning and end of the conversation had been cut.

Furthermore, the soundwaves of Alison saying “yes it is” twice were identical proving that the phrase had been spliced into different parts of the recording.

The expert’s verdict that it had been doctored included loads of other evidence of tampering and it was concluded that the recording was a forgery.

Alison put the report to E.on, and once the company had listened to the recording again, it completely reversed its decision and compensated her for any expenses incurred.

The Mirror journalists said they couldn’t get hold of First Choice Marketing. It was invisible on the internet and its registered office is a mail forwarding service above a dry cleaners in Wood Green, London, and not even E.on could provide them with its contact details.

It’s doubtful that this is a one-off. Alison has since received “six or seven” calls from other people claiming to be from E.on but who are more freelance energy brokers.

Her advice: “Ask them for their phone number and address and they’ll put the phone down.”

All I can add to this is my observation that you retailers have to keep on your toes so much so that, should you ever give up the day job, you could probably fill in for the ballerinas at Sadler’s Wells.

Western Union calling

I’ve been doing this particular job since 1995 and there are some companies, some really famous ones, that I never hear a single complaint about.

In all that time I had never had a beef about Western Union until June 10 when, right in the middle of another spate of Lanwall complaints, I got a call from Jaswinder Kaur Gill who runs a Premier store in Bedford.

Jas got switched off for 30 days owing to some widespread fraud (absolutely nothing to do with her). She had some serious issues with the handling of the problem.

I was happy to get involved (light relief from Lanwall) and in the end, after an exchange of emails, I had a call from an American PR lady who made all the right noises after explaining that the call centre had just been moved and new EU requirements just put in place.

“Not our finest moment,” she said. “It was badly managed and we will reach out to her.”

Well, that was The Right Answer.

And, I hope there’s space here for my favourite Western Union joke of all time, now believed to be an apocryphal story. An editor sent a telegram to actor Cary Grant’s agent to ask his age (bearing in mind that telegrams charged by the word). “How old Cary Grant?” it asked.

The supposed reply came back: “Old Cary Grant fine. How you?”

Keeping all the paperwork

Shah Patel, who trades in Crawley, West Sussex, near Convenience Store’s stamping ground, says he wants to pass on a tip to all readers.

“I keep all your columns in a file,” he says. “You never know when you’ll need them. You should tell all your readers to do the same.”

Aw, Shah, that is sweet of you, but modesty forbids…

Topics