Back in October last year I was checking through my mobile phone bill when I noticed a series of new charges.

On further examination they appeared to be repetitive weekly charges to an undecipherable number that made no sense.

After a long chat with my mobile phone provider they cancelled the charges saying they would block that number on all future bills.

The following month those same charges appeared again.

My provider gave me the phone number of the invoicing company and asked me to contact them directly and request they stop immediately.

The number given answered with a recorded message saying they would respond to my call in three days...which they did not. My provider then gave me the number to text with the word ‘Stop’ which I did only to find my next bill repeating the same charges.

I was informed that the company making these charges was using a ‘gaming’ app that I’d never heard of. Not surprising as I have not used a gaming app in my life and probably wouldn’t recognise one if I saw one.

The whole episode has been a nightmare to sort out and I’m still not sure if these charges won’t simply pop up again as they have done so repeatedly.

When I buy anything online from Apple, Amazon or whoever I am obliged to give either my credit card details or make the purchase using my account reference and password.

So here’s my question.

Why would a mobile phone provider enable random third parties to charge anything to my account without any form of security whatsoever?

It would appear that any dubious operator who simply happens to know your number can charge anything to your mobile phone account without any proof of purchase or security check at any time.

My phone provider reluctantly got involved after asking me to sort out the problem myself without my having the vaguest notion of who was making these charges.

Surely in this era of phishing, scams and digital fraud, a lot more care should be shown by phone providers in the security of their customers?

Playing innocent bystander won’t convince anyone.


I’m a big fan of Olivia Colman. I think she represents the best of British acting without the embarrassing hubris of her Hollywood contemporaries.

I particularly liked her refusal to attend the usual round of Oscar night parties in favour touring the city in a bus with five of her ‘old mates’.

So when I heard that The Favourite, in which Ms Colman won an Oscar for best actress, was showing at the Rex Cinema in Wilmslow I had to go.

It was my first visit to the new, rejuvenated Rex.

It was a million miles away from the impersonal, giant, multi-screen experience. The staff fell over themselves to be helpful even finding me a seat to suit my dodgy right knee, which has the flexibility of a nylon dog bone.

Mrs B ordered a coffee which at £1.50 had to be the best deal outside Colombia.

The theatre itself is quite small, creating an intimate atmosphere like a group of friends on a night out rather than an audience.

After the Pearl and Dean adverts, the lights dimmed heralding the main feature. The audience grew quiet as we waited for the opening sequence...and we waited...and waited. But nothing happened.

It felt like those bygone days when the reel broke and the whole audience started cheering.

Then, right on cue, a young man appeared from the back to check if the film was running.

Apparently technology hadn’t reached his hidey-hole. He needed eyes-on to know if the film was running or not.

It was just wonderful.

The audience chatted and chuckled and after a few minutes the film began to polite applause as our young technician scuttled back to his secret hideaway.

Olivia was, of course, brilliant but on this occasion she was overshadowed by the friendly staff, a good natured audience and an hilarious cameo appearance by a flustered young man taking us back to the golden age of cinema.

All-in-all it was a great night out.

If you have not yet been to the Rex I urge you to go and no I didn’t get free tickets.

(I’ll be interested to hear your view of The Favourite.)


If you don’t already know, local elections will take place on Thursday, May 2. On the run-in to the elections, Cheshire East will be reminding us of the wonderful things they have done during their time in office.

God knows what they are but their seven different police investigations will probably not top the list. (None of them have been resolved and probably won’t be until after the election, which would be most convenient.) By the time you’ve read all the press releases you won’t know if you are living in Cheshire or Cloud Cuckoo Land.

The race is prepared.

By Guardian columnist Vic Barlow

You can contact Vic by email at or by text at 07590 560012.