Australia Post Above the Law?

AusPost have been great in the past, but not so much when things go wrong. Until March this year, the only articles to go missing seemed to be cheques payable to The Git!

The Git purchases many items online, mainly because in a rural part of Tasmania there are usually no other sources. Some items do not appear to be available even in the capital city! So, for the best part of 50 years The Git had no complaint about AusPost; rather the reverse. Then in March a tracked item was not available at the local PO. The Post Mistress told me there had been a burglary and the item arrived at the PO on the day before the burglary. She told me that I should contact AusPost for compensation ($50 for an item that cost me $69.85).

After two failed attempts at being connected to a human being using the phone number the Post Mistress had given me (the calls dropped out after an hour), The Git decided to try his luck online. Eventually he managed to leave a message regarding the missing item. AusPost’s response was:

…this item is waiting collection at the FRANKLIN Post Office from the 24/03/2015. This item will be held for you to pick up for 10 business days. Jonathan, I am sorry if you have not been left a card waiting collection from the Franklin Post Office. However, you can go and pick your parcel up just make sure you have some identification when you do.

The issue was marked: “Resolved”. Not only had The Git received the card, but two separate emails from AusPost that the item was available for collection!

The Git left rather a terse response about the difficulty of collecting an item that had been stolen. He received no response to this. Having discovered that AusPost is just as subject to Australian Consumer Law as any other business, he left a further message stating that if he received no response within 24 hours he would initiate legal action. The following day The Git was told:

We have confirmed that the theft from the Franklin LPO was within the timeframe that the article was Awaiting Collection for you. The police have attended the incident and unfortunately no article has currently been recovered.

In regards to compensation, as the article was not delivered then it is the Sender that would need to lodge a compensation claim with Australia Post. We would advise for you to contact the sender of the item and have them contact us quoting this case number ******** for reference.

So, it would seem that the vendor, who is not out of pocket, can be compensated. The intended recipient of the goods is not so entitled. This seems very arse-backwards. And why was The Git not informed on either the first, or second query that he should contact the vendor for recompense rather than AusPost whose care the item was in?

From AusPost’s response to past missing items to the vendor:

As your parcel was sent without cover, you are ineligible for any compensation.

AusPost clearly believe they are above the law. Standard letters and parcels are compensated at a maximum of $50, a rate set in 1987! Registered articles are compensated at a maximum of $100. Extra Cover (insurance) is only needed for items valued up to $5,000. See Postal Industry Ombudsman—Australia Post.

There’s a general principle in insurance called insurable interest. To insure goods, you must have an insurable interest in the goods. That is, you must be either the owner, or have them in your possession. In this instance, The Git became the owner after paying the vendor. The possessor was AusPost. Any insurable interest that the vendor had evaporated when AusPost took possession. At this point the vendor has fulfilled all obligation in regard to Australian Consumer Law. The vendor cannot be held responsible for what AusPost does from this point in time.

However, AusPost’s Terms and Conditions state:

Australia Post will not be liable for loss or damage arising from or caused by:
68.1.1 the injury, illness or death of any person;
68.1.2 misdelivery including delivery otherwise than to the addressee, delayed delivery, early delivery or failure to deliver any letter or article;
68.1.3 damage to the contents of an article whether concealed or otherwise, including but not limited to deterioration, contamination or evaporation of any article or thing; or
68.1.4 any other loss or damage of any kind, however caused and whether direct or consequential, including, but not limited to, negligence or breach of contract by Australia Post, its employees, servants or agents, that arises in whole or in part from, or in connection with, any services provided by Australia Post.

Australian Consumer Law states:

What are consumer guarantees?

When a consumer buys goods or services, the ACL provides that they will have guaranteed rights that:

• the supplier has the right to sell the goods;
• the goods are of acceptable quality;
• the goods match their description;
• the goods are fit for any purpose that the consumer makes known to the supplier;
• the repairs and spare parts are reasonably available;
• the services are carried out with reasonable care and skill; and
• the services are completed within a reasonable time.

Based on past experience with the vendor, the first five points were met by the vendor. The final two points are clearly not the vendor’s responsibility. The vendor used a portion of the moneys conveyed by The Git for the performance of delivery with due care by AusPost. AusPost’s Terms and Conditions are clearly in conflict with Australian Consumer Law that was designed to prevent the bully-boy tactics that Australia Post is using. Ever so many episodes of The Checkout point out the illegality of making claims contrary to the ACL. Perhaps it’s time they took AusPost to task for doing precisely that!

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On GMO and Organic Crops

Having been told for the umpteenth time that GMO crops outyield conventional hybrids by 30% The Git went looking for independent studies to either confirm or disconfirm the claim. Such studies are extremely rare; not surprising when you understand that Monsanto et alia “own” the genes in the seeds they sell you. If you upset them, you might see your seed supply cut off. Monsanto can be vicious as the Percy Schmeiser story revealed. Schmeiser’s neighbour grew Roundup Ready (RR) canola, that is canola resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup (glyphosate), the bees cross-pollinated Schmeiser’s crop and the neighbour’s, thus Schmeiser was found to be illegally in possession of Monsanto’s property (the genes in his crop). He was successfully sued by Monsanto despite having never benefited from the RR genes in the seed he saved since he never sprayed the crop with herbicide.

Schmeiser’s experience played a pivotal role in Tasmania’s farmers’ insistence that the government put in place a moratorium on GMO crops. Tasmania’s major markets demand GMO-free produce. GMO-contamination would eliminate those markets and necessitate finding new markets, a far from trivial exercise. For example, Tasmanian fruit-grower Tim Reid spent six years to establish permission for exporting a single variety of apple (Fuji) to Japan despite Tasmania’s excellent reputation overseas for not just being “clean and green”, but also mercifully free of many pests and diseases rampant overseas. And of course we can sell GMO-free into markets that would happily accept GMO produce. There are no markets demanding GMO to be found.

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NBN Even More Final Comment

After several frustrating weeks of fraudband, The Git finally has real broadband. Download speeds on EscapeNet vary between 0.5 Mb/s and sometimes exceed 5 Mb/s, but never for very long. More worryingly, the speed fluctuates to such an extent that streaming video that worked passably on ADSL has been virtually unwatchable. However, several particpants in a thread at Whirlpool Forums suggested that The Git try another Internet service provider.

Internode (founded by Simon Hackett) have a monthly plan and The Git signed up for two months for the princely sum of $228.90, later amended to $198.90 after being told that was the original quote. Much to The Git’s relief, Internode connections are consistently higher than 11 Mb/s and streaming video has become watchable once more.

EscapeNet initially said they would charge an exit fee for termination of the 24 month contract, but have since had second thoughts. They claim that the erratic behaviour The Git has experienced is not due to a shortage of backhaul, and that the problem lies somewhere within NBN Co’s operations. The Git is assisting EscapeNet in persuading NBN Co that there is a problem; apparently it affects only EscapeNet’s Fixed Wireless clients and only a small number of them.

So there is a purpose to the extra Ethernet ports on the NBN Network Termination Device! Presumably, if Internode’s service goes pear-shaped, The Git will have the delight of being able to be connected even more than two different ISPs!

What We Did On Our Holidays

For some months I had been looking forward with somewhat mixed emotions to flying to New Zealand to spend a week with my daughter and grandchildren. I first became aware I had a daughter some fifteen years ago when I answered the telephone to be greeted by “Hello Dad”. I had been dimly aware that my ex had a daughter, but given the nature of our last few weeks together, the chances of her offspring being mine seemed remote. Nevertheless, I sprang for a return airfare to Melbourne so my new-found daughter Seanna could meet me, my “official” offspring, my mother, sisters, brother, cousins and any number of cats. While the event went well – my family certainly knows how to enjoy life – Seanna and I did not become close and a fairly desultory correspondence was the only outcome. One thing was obvious though, Seanna had inherited the “deviant” septum that characterises my mother’s side of the family; the infamous Ashley nose. She was mine and not some mysterious stranger’s daughter.

The flight to Sydney was uneventful and saw me reading books on my Kindle (as usual) until my oldest son Kieron phoned shortly before the flight to New Zealand. I said how much I was looking forward to seeing him in Sydney when I returned from my trip away. Kieron expressed some surprise at this; he had entirely forgotten about it. He told me he had moved out of Sydney following the breakup with his wife and was living in the North of the state, but would make it down for an overnight stay the following week. I cut the conversation there as my flight was due to leave. Clearing customs and obtaining the boarding pass was relatively quick and painless; thank the computer Gods for ePassports and such. Customs seized my bottle of water, but ignored the small bottles of propylene glycol laced with nicotine for my eCigarettes. I suspect making lots of “smoke” with them would be far more terrorising than brandishing a bottle of water, but what the fsk would I know about these things?

The three hour flight over the Tasman Sea was only slightly more eventful than the trip to Sydney. A passenger in the seat ahead of me coughed, spluttered, and hawked all the way there while kneeling on her seat to face me. Upon arrival at exactly the predicted time (5 past midnight), Seanna was nowhere to be seen. I telephoned, but only reached her message bank. I waited and phoned again, but still no response. I was very tired and so after what seemed like a suitable interval, caught a cab into the city. The driver held out slim hope for finding anything reasonable in the way of accommodation. Cheap places don’t have night clerks and most accommodation was fully booked it being the height of tourist season. Nevertheless, we found a room, rather more luxurious than I needed, but I needed sleep more than anything. Logs don’t sleep sounder than I did that night. I wasn’t particularly worried about Seanna having concluded that the most likely explanation was that she had assumed 5 past midnight was still the same day as 5 minutes to midnight!

The following day, I breakfasted and coffeed and phoned and sent several emails. Time to venture on to Palmerston North, a small city some two hours north of Wellington where Seanna had recently returned after a period on the coast. Once in Palmerston North, I found cheap digs above a gambling parlour with a tiny bar. The barman lent me his phone book, but there were no entries under Seanna’s surname. Nor had there been any response to my voicemail messages and emails. Worse, I did not have her new address. “Waiting is…” as Heinlein presciently remarked in Stranger in a Strange Land all these many years ago.

The following morning, I asked the barman where the nearest decent coffee shop was – the bar and gambling parlour opened at 7:30 am – and hied off there for a feed of dry-cured bacon and coffee. Fortunately, logging onto the Library wi-fi across the road was free (my 100 MB for $NZ30 of bandwidth from NZ Telstra was dwindling rapidly) and after my repast logged in to my email. And lo! Seanna had left an email message! I quickly dashed off a reply and how to find me. It took her all of fifteen minutes to reach the coffee shop. It’s a very small city. It turned out that I was correct about the date misunderstanding and she had changed her telephone number after losing her old phone without thinking to inform me. We had a great evening and fortunately for me, Seanna, and her housemate (Auntie Keren) aren’t night-owls.

Four hours after falling asleep, my luck gave out. Remember the Chinese lady coughing, hawking and so forth on the flight over? Around 4 am I was coughing, hawking and spitting! I recalled my lung-clearing exercises from a bout of bronchitis several years ago and let Seanna sleep as long as possible. She had had little sleep the night before following the drive to and from Wellington. Around 8 am I woke her and asked to be taken to the hospital where I was diagnosed with pneumonia and acute hay-fever. Palmerston North it appears is the pollen-capital of New Zealand and outsiders usually succumb. The nurses obsessed over my heart (I suffer from tachycardia) even though I told them it was under control with my regular beta-blocker, but what would I know? Fortunately, they eventually removed the heart monitor, gave me a prescription for meds, and sent me home. It’s gratifying that hospital care in New Zealand is free, even if you are a tourist! And the meds are subsidised heavily: $NZ8 per pharmaceutical. I went to my new home with antibiotics, a strong corticosteroid and asthma-puffer with spacer for $NZ24. I was as weak as a kitten and remain so a several weeks later. Pneumonia is not kind to those of us of a certain age.

One of the great things about travel is the way word usage changes. I overheard a nurse’s aide explain to a gentleman that the nurse was going to “give him a dose”. I looked over and thought: “That’s not a bad idea!” Then I realised she couldn’t give me a dose; I was on antibiotics already.

Seanna and Auntie Keren were most solicitous, catering to my needs, and I became almost sick of eating chicken soup. It was supplemented by fresh green-lipped mussels on the last night and they are to die for even when you are as ill as I have been. I will draw a veil over our conversations, they are a bit close-up and personal, except to say that Seanna’s mother was as nice as pie after dire warnings from her offspring of the consequences of allowing her to visit. I now have a new family to love and care about and it doesn’t come much better than that. Oh yes, I nearly forgot. Kieron phoned the day before the return trip home to say he couldn’t make it this time. Too late to cancel the hotel at Sydney and change flights. It was a long trip home.

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

Retirement may be looked upon either as a prolonged holiday or as a rejection, a being thrown on to the scrap-heap. — Simone de Beauvoir

Phishing Alert: Network Solutions

In the past, The Git’s domain registrar (NetSol) has issued warnings about phishing attacks via email:

Phishing Alert : Please watch for emails like this

We have been receiving reports that some customers are receiving spam/phishing emails that are fraudulent. There are reports that customers of other registrars are also receiving similar spam/phishing emails. The email we have seen has the subject line “Attention: domain will be expired soon.” There is a link the email that says “‘Renew your domain now and while it shows  http://www.networksolutions.com it actually goes tohttp://www.networksolutions.com.com42.asia>  now look closer , the link actually goes to the domain “com42.asia “. There are other domains and subject lines that are being used.   Please delete the email if it is suspicious.   We want you to know that we are taking every possible measure to protect our Customers from this attack and mitigate its impact. We are working very closely with the Registries as well as ISPs to detect any new domains from which these attacks are coming and shut them down.

The Git’s bank, ISPs and others have all warned against clicking links in unsolicited emails; indeed, The Git has taught hundreds of email users the same. It was surprising then when The Git received the following email from NetSol:

Dear Customer, New Regulations now require that domain account holders confirm their email information otherwise their domain will be deactivated. If your domain is deactivated you will still own the domain but you will not be able to have a live website until you verify your contact information. To ensure your domain(s) remain active, please click the CONFIRM button below to confirm the email address we have for you is accurate. CONFIRMIf you have any questions, feel free to contact customer service at 1-888-642-0209.

Note that it’s “Dear Customer”, not “Jonathan Sturm” (my name isn’t really Pompous Git), nor does The Git’s account number occur anywhere in the email. Think of how the likes of Amazon and PayPal contact you. Further, the “New Regulations” aren’t linked to. What New Regulations? Despite a flurry of emails to support from The Git’s email address, NetSol have been adamant that responding to emails sent to that address is not confirmation that this email address is “accurate”. Only clicking on the link will confirm its accuracy. Nor is NetSol willing (or perhaps able) to tell me what and where these “New Regulations” are! Being mail-bombed by one’s domain registrar is, to say the least, unpleasant. So, The Git decided to transfer his domains to a new registrar (see below). Initiating the transfer (obtaining the relevant EPP Keys) generated a message that these would be made available within three working days. However, a subsequent email from NetSol stated:

If you intend to transfer this domain name please call Network Solutions at 1-888-642-9675 to request assistance from a transfer specialist.

WTF! The Git lives in Tasmania and NetSol are in the USA. The cost of such a telephone call would doubtless be astronomical given Telstra’s international call rates. Just how fucking hard is it to issue an EPP Key? Well, The Git happens to know the answer to that question. The http://www.pompousgit.com domain was registered with Uber Global (it was a birthday present some years ago) and it took seconds for them to issue an EPP Key. The Git has put NetSol on notice that he knows ICANN require the Key to be issued within six working days. Given NetSol’s recent propensity for annoying its customers, The Git is far from hopeful. Some time ago, NetSol began using subterfuge when renewing accounts. Items that one didn’t want were preslected and added into the account with no obvious way to remove them if you happened to notice before completing the transaction. For example, hiding one’s personal details from anyone performing a “whois” search. Since one’s personal details are usually a matter of public record (telephone directory, electoral roll etc) there is nothing to be achieved from this exercise beyond enriching the registrar. see http://blog.adrianroselli.com/2012/11/network-solutions-and-dark-patterns.html for some details. Some years ago, when The Git chose his first hosting service, the one he chose had just become a registrar when ICANN decided to remove Verisign/NetSol’s monopoly. He registered a domain with them and pointed it to a subdomain on his website. The hosting service subsequently sold their registrar business to GoDaddy. GoDaddy, unlike Netsol, didn’t send a renewal notice and sold that domain to a squatter who wanted far more to allow The Git its continued use than he was prepared to pay. It must be said that The Git’s continuing use of NetSol was almost entirely due to this as they sent out renewals both by email and snail mail for many years and to The Git’s mind this justified the extra cost. So, The Git asked his Internet savvy friends who he should choose as his new registrar. The answer was http://www.active-domain.com/ who extend your domain registration from its current expiry date by one year for a remarkably low fee. Additionally, extras that many registrars charge for are free. Quite why some business think that annoying the bejesus out of customers is a Good Idea escapes me.

Update

Managed to persuade NetSol to give me the auth codes for my domains and transfer is underway. However, when I last renewed I for whatever reason decided to turn on autorenew. Turning autorenew off cannot be achieved through either NetSol’s web interface or via email. It must be done through telephoning. Only problem with that is the telephone number is not accessible from Tasmania; I just get the engaged tone. Bastages! I’ll just have to cancel my credit card and go through all the shemozzle of updating all the places I make regular payments. I’m not usually given to hatred, but this has been the week from hell! The only upside in this was discovering that Telstra no longer charge like a wounded bull for international calls. They are actually quite reasonable — less than I was paying for prepaid mobile local calls three years ago.

Update 2

Fortunately, NetSol eventually responded to my complaints and has removed the autorenew from my accounts. They telephoned me and despite the difficulty understanding what was being said to me, managed to make them understand what it was that I wanted — after the second telephone call. It turns out that what they want are the answers to your personal questions that supposedly protect you from having your account spoofed. Of course if my password had been cracked by a malicious hacker, they could then have readily edited the answers to those questions.

Entering my account now generates a nag screen that tells me that I no longer have the protection of Autorenew , as well as my Domain Setup being “only 65% complete”. If The Git really wanted to be endlessly nagged he’d be married to SMBO. Oh wait… he already is 😉

More secure is a two level security system as used by The Git’s bank and WordPress. After entering the correct username and password, access is only granted after keying in a numeric code that is sent to the user’s mobile phone. If you lose your phone, all is not lost, however. WordPress give you a list of numbers that you can use to regain access to your account. Keeping that list on a sheet of paper is as bad of course unless it’s in a safe.

More convenient is PasswordSafe, free software that allows you to create a secure database of usernames and passwords. You protect the database with a secure password. Secure passwords include upper and lower case letters, numbers and none alpha-numeric characters such as @, #, %, & and $. True security requires different passwords for different places and remembering ever so many passwords with differing none alpha-numeric characters is impossible for most of us. Memorising one is all that is required with PasswordSafe (and other similar products The Git doesn’t use).

It’s difficult to describe the feeling The Git had when he clicked on the large, red CONFIRM button in the email from NetSol. After training ever so many clients to not ever do such a thing and never having done that thing (and thus remained relatively malware and virus-free for decades), it was a truly painful experience. One that The Git hopes he will never have to endure again.

NBN Final Comment

Our NBN connection is now working after a relatively minor problem was fixed: the ethernet cable that came with the router was faulty. That said, it finally became possible to assess the government’s speed claims and compare them to reality. Is the NBN really faster broadband than ADSL, or is it just a boondoggle to transfer $AU6 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money into the pockets of the ALP’s mates and matesses?

The plan The Git purchased claims a download speed of 12 Mb/s and uploads at 1 Mb/s. Actual measured download speeds have varied between 1.3 and almost 5 Mb/s. That is, when demand on the tower The Git is connected to is high, it is actually slower than my ADSL1 connection was most of the time. At best, it is less than 4 times faster despite supposedly being 8 times faster, and almost certainly considerably slower than could have been achieved over ADSL2. While I doubt that the ~25 Mb/s maximum achievable on ADSL2 was ever possible at The House of Steel, it would certainly have been much faster than ADSL1! Less than 5 Mb/s while claiming 12 Mb/s is definitely fraudband, rather than broadband especially in light of the very much restricted available bandwidth (~10%) at the same price point.

Averaging download speeds (actual, not theoretical) indicate that the connection works at 3.1 Mb/s which coincidentally is equal to the average speed achieved in Australian homes with the NBN rollout barely begun. If you think of Internet data as water flowing down a pipe, then it should be obvious that increasing the diameter of the pipe when it is only a quarter full will have no noticeable effect on the amount of water flowing down the pipe. Indeed, there are NBN users on Whirlpool’s forums attaining download speeds comparable to those experienced by The Git even though they have purchased a 25 Mb/s connection.

Since something of this nature was predicted in the very first post The Git made on the subject of the NBN, why would he have switched early from his adequate and inexpensive ADSL connection to the somewhat faster, but much vastly more expensive NBN? The early NBN rollout areas in Tasmania are now two months away from having their copper disconnected. Only 55% of households in those areas are now connected to the NBN. The latecomers are being told they will have to wait for an NBN connection, possibly in excess of 12 months in many cases. The main subcontractor to the NBN Co looks like declaring bankruptcy as NBN Co put them on hold for many months while their repayments on millions of dollars worth of equipment kept on rolling in. Most of their subcontractors have fled for they could not afford to wait on the rollout recommencing.

The great pity in all of this is what could have been achieved by putting more than $AU5.5 billion where it’s needed, hospitals for instance. Providing every household in the country with three redundant ethernet pots when almost nobody has any use for them has to be one of the most egregiously stupid decisions ever made. But then it was presumably with the approval of the execrable Conroy when he was Minister for Communications. He never seemed to understand what the Internet was all about, or communication for that matter.

“The regulation of telecommunications powers in Australia is exclusively federal. That means I am in charge of spectrum auctions, and if I say to everyone in this room ‘if you want to bid in our spectrum auction you’d better wear red underpants on your head’, I’ve got some news for you. You’ll be wearing them on your head. I have unfettered legal power.”

Story here.

Thought for the Day

If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal. — Emma Goldman

NBN Redux Part 2

When The Git chose his fixed wireless NBN plan, he (in consultation with SWMBO of course) decided to go without a landline line telephone service (actually a Voice Over IP service (VOIP)) via the ISP. A closer reading of what’s being offered is that our landline copper service is the only way to have a landline service with Fixed Wireless. Since the copper is to be disconnected in 2015 (as per the agreement between the previous ALP government and Telstra), this seems to imply that the only way to have a landline service after the disconnect date is to have an agreement with an ISP none of whom seem to provide a telephone only service. There is a connector on the router EscapeNet supply for VOIP and that also has four 1 Gb ethernet ports and 300 Mb WiFi, a slight overkill for those not needing Internet.

Why did we decide to eschew retaining a landline? Two ANZAC days ago, at approximately 5 am in the morning, an American telemarketer phoned. “Why,” The Git asked this idiot, “would I purchase anything from a criminal?”

“I’m not a criminal,” he responded.

“First, it’s before 9 am. Second it’s a weekend. Third it’s a public holiday. Fourth this number is on the do not call list. That’s four crimes so far.”

The idiot replied: “Australian law does not apply to US citizens!”

“Oh goodie,” replied The Git, “That means I can tell the next American I meet, as I murder him/her, that I have it on good authority he is not protected by Australian law!”

Going without stupid telemarketers will be no hardship. BiilG once wrote that he thought we should be able to charge unknown callers thus reducing their number. Such a facility is presumably not too difficult to implement now that telephony is firmly controlled by computers. Of course there would need to be a way to cancel the charge if one decided that the caller really did have something important to say. Sadly, very few voice calls are worth the time they consume these days.