ShellNews.net: The Great Shell Pluspoints Swindle: "A deluge of feedback to a simple web page launched in February 2004, entitled "The Great Shell Pluspoints Swindle", revealed that a badly flawed computer system, a disinterested customer service department, and the repeated failure by Shell's managers to act on problems have left the Pluspoints scheme in tatters; wide open to fraud and misuse by dishonest and careless petrol station staff."
By Alfred Donovan
Posted 3 October 2004
What started out as a protest website by one unhappy Shell customer in the UK has led to the discovery that huge numbers of electronic loyalty points are not being given to customers who have rightly earned them. A deluge of feedback to a simple web page launched in February 2004, entitled "The Great Shell Pluspoints Swindle", revealed that a badly flawed computer system, a disinterested customer service department, and the repeated failure by Shell's managers to act on problems have left the Pluspoints scheme in tatters; wide open to fraud and misuse by dishonest and careless petrol station staff.
The website's author Richard Dobbie set up the site under the domain name "www.shellpluspoints.co.uk" which caused many people to accidentally stumble across his site while looking for Shell's official UK Pluspoints website, which uses the same address, but with a ".com" suffix. To date he has received nearly 500 e-mails complaining of similar problems with the scheme. These e-mails have come from Shell customers, and in some cases Shell service station staff and management who have turned whistleblower.
All over the UK, motorists are finding that their Shell Pluspoints accounts are not being correctly credited with points they have earned. Customers then face an uphill struggle to reclaim their missing points, with many unable to do so because they Shell demand that original receipts are sent in the post. For most customers it is simply not worth the time, bother and cost of a stamp. For customers who claim back V.A.T. it is not possible as they need to give their receipts to Customs and Excise.
Shell's electronic systems seem to be flawless where collecting money from customers' credit and debit cards is concerned, yet it would be no more difficult (in fact, it would be easier as there are no outside parties involved) to make the Pluspoints system similarly flawless. But every time that points go un-credited to a customer, Shell pockets an extra 1 percent from the sale of the fuel. Perhaps this explains Shell's reluctance to make improvements?
Shell has made no public response to the website, but in letters to its author Richard Dobbie, they shrug off the problems and claim that the majority of customers are happy with the scheme. According to Richard, Tanya Dodge, Shell's Loyalty Manager for the UK and Ireland, acknowledges there are problems with the scheme, and that the electronic Pluspoints system is flawed in some of Shell's petrol stations, but says that improvements are being made and better monitoring of the scheme is now in place.
However, a change in policy promised by Tanya Dodge in June 2004 has failed to materialise. Ms Dodge apparently pledged that Shell's Pluspoints telephone helpline would end its obstructive policy of making customers send their receipts to Shell in the post and would take customers at their word and instantly add the missing points if customers telephoned the helpline. But feedback received by Richard Dobbie's website indicates that in September 2004 customers were still being asked by Shell to send their receipts in the post.
In September 2004 Shell UK attempted to close down "The Great Shell Pluspoints Swindle" website by putting pressure on the website's hosting company. Shell claimed that the website broke trademark laws. Shell has used the same kind of oppressive tactic before with another website warrior legitimately protesting about Shell's unethical and/or grossly incompetent behaviour (see "Nuclear Crimes" below). Eight companies within the Royal Dutch Shell Group are currently suing the former Shell Geologist of almost 30 years standing, the internationally know humanitarian, Dr John Huong, for web-pages published on this website in his name. The author and creator of "The Great Shell Pluspoints Swindle" website, Richard Dobbie, has successfully resisted Shell's attempts to have his website closed down, and maintains that he is not breaking any law by using the Shell logo to illustrate a story that is in the public interest.
It is notable that Shell uses it in-house army of some 650 lawyers to try to curtail freedom of expression of the Internet while at the same time claiming to support the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which contains provisions to promote fundamentally important basic rights, including freedom of expression.
Richard is now referring the Pluspoints promotion to the Advertising Standards Authority as he believes Shell have not delivered on pledges made in associated advertising materials. He is also taking legal advice on referring the matter to the Office of Fair Trading as he believes it may constitute another case of corporate fraud by Shell management because of the length of time the problems have gone unresolved and the obvious boost the above conduct must have given to Shell's profits. Only Shell know exactly how many Pluspoints have wrongfully gone un-issued and the effect this has had on inflating their profits, but Richard Dobbie now believes this information should be made public.