I got a letter from someone who wishes to be known only as ‘Peterborough’ and I can’t blame him for feeling paranoid. He had received a final reminder from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), telling him that his response to its annual business survey was overdue.

Peterborough says the questionnaire was 10 pages long. “You would need a PhD to fill it in. It turned into mission impossible so, after spending a week, I gave up and posted my audited accounts. Within days I had a call from the ONS asking for my help to interpret the accounts!”

The ONS reminder says in part “your response is legally required” and “failure to return the questionnaire could result in a fine of up to £2,500”.

“Dare I say there are thousands of retail outlets which I suspect are not ‘registered’ and therefore not on ONS’ radar? I further suspect these outlets operate unchecked,” adds Peterborough.

I dare say he is right. And I suspect that some might think it is a scam… some devious way of accumulating data on you. No, it’s bona fide. The survey is “the key resource for understanding the detailed structure, conduct and performance of businesses across the UK” and “used by government to determine economic policy”.

Householders get ‘invited’ to take part in the consumer equivalent of the business surveys, but can opt out if they want.

It’s left Peterborough feeling picked on.