Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘fraud

Follow-up: Fraudulent product information/German DVDs/Koch Media

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In January, I wrote about the fraudulent behavior of Koch Media regarding the 1980s/1990s Sherlock-Holmes series*.

On the same day, I sent an email to Koch Media with a demand for rectification. This received a near-immediate automatic confirmation of receipt, implying that Koch Media definitely received said email.

Nevertheless, there has been no further reaction in the almost month since then—despite an explicit dead-line set for the 21st of January.

Correspondingly, I will now put the matter in the hands of the police.

I have already (as explicitly mentioned in the email to Koch Media) taken the non-reaction as cause to download the missing episodes from the Internet, which I consider perfectly legal as a remedy of a defect product in light of an uncooperative counter-part*. I advise other victims to do the same, should Koch Media or the respective seller not respond appropriately to complaints.**

*A minor hitch is that, according to German law, the first point of contact and party required to provide remedy is the seller, not the producer, of a good. However, due to the time period involved, I can no longer safely say who the seller was, let alone provide proof of purchase from that seller. Further, it is obvious that the fraud has been perpetrated by the producer (Koch Media), with the sellers likely acting in good faith or even qualifying as victims. Nevertheless, fellow victims with a sufficient knowledge (and preferably a receipt) should turn to the seller first.

**I stress that any such attempt should be preceded by a complaint with a demand for remedy. This to (a) give Koch Media a fair chance, (b) reduce the risk of legal culpability on behalf of the downloader, (c) let Koch Media know that its fraudulent actions have had consequences, giving incentives for an improved behavior. I further stress that this recommendation only applies to purchasers of Koch Media’s product. I refrain from giving explicit download instructions, seeing that such instructions have been legally problematic in some other contexts (however, it is not hard to find out how).

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Written by michaeleriksson

February 4, 2019 at 12:06 am

Fraudulent product information/German DVDs/Koch Media

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A few years back, I bought a German edition by Koch Media of the 1980s/1990s Sherlock-Holmes series*, labeled as “Die komplette Serie” (“The complete series”). Re-watching it, I also visited the Wikipedia page—and was highly confused to see a mention of 41 episodes, where my “complete” DVD set only contains 36.

*As this is a British production: I use the word in the U.S. meaning and/or as a British plural.

As it turns out, Koch Media has arbitrarily removed five episodes, without giving the slightest indication of this fact. Worse: These five appear to be the movie-length* ones, which (in a rough approximation) then equal ten episodes worth of screen-time… By this reckoning, “complete” corresponds to roughly three-quarters (36/46). I note, in contrast, that Wikipedia claims the full 41 episodes for the English language region-1 (“The Complete Granada Television Series”) and region-2** (“The Complete Collection”) equivalents. Further, that any excuse based on what was originally aired in Germany falls flat on its face,*** seeing that German Wikipedia points to even fewer episodes being aired and dubbed versions*** being available for the missing episodes. Further yet, that the movie-length additions were sent during and are an official part of the series (in contrast to e.g. some continuations of sci-fi series). Further yet, that they were made long before the DVD-box was released (actually, before DVDs were available), making a “it was complete at the time” explanation impossible.

*Most episodes likely clock in at roughly fifty minutes, and are based on the many short-stories. Several stories were book-length, however, while others might have been given more time for other reasons when filmed.

**Differences between DVD-regions (a user-hostile idiocy) would not give a satisfactory justification, but at least some explanation.

***Germany is infested with dubbed versions of everything (cf. excursion), and a sometime problem is that material that was never aired is not available in dubbed versions, and are therefore not included on DVD releases either—to the great annoyance of those who use the English audio as a matter of course.

Barring great incompetence and lack of due diligence, there is only one conclusion possible: A deliberate and fraudulent attempt to mislead the customers about the contents.

Unfortunately, this is only the latest of many, many grossly dishonest distortions by the German DVD industry. For instance:

  1. I once bought a few Hitchcock movies in a box labeled as having English audio, but where half of them actually only contained German audio. Note: Not “a few Transformers movies”—we are talking about movies that are simultaneously classic and artistic, which should not be watched in a dubbed version by anyone.
  2. In the days when I used DVD players,* I regularly encountered DVDs marked as having English/German audio and German subtitles (with no qualifications!), where it turned out that it was impossible to disable the subtitles when using the English audio.

    *Today, I use a computer with software that does not allow such inexcusable idiocies.

  3. Occasionally, especially with older material, alleged dual-audio TV-series turn out to have single episodes with only German audio (“Get Smart” springs to mind).
  4. Seasons are often divided into two smaller boxes (it self acceptable) that are labeled as “The complete season X” (“Die komplette Xte Staffel”) in large letters, with an accompanying “Volume 1” resp. “Volume 2” in smaller letters and on a different line (no longer acceptable). Since the only sane expectation* is that a DVD release of a TV season does not leave anything out, the only reasonable implication of “complete” would be “this volume contains the entire season in one go”, which is quite in contrast to the actual intent. A non-misleading description would be e.g. “Die Xte Staffel: Volume 1” (“Season X: Volume 1”) in a consistent letter size and on one line.

    *Unlike with books and “unabridged”, where e.g. the “The unabridged [very long book], volume 1” might be justifiable, seeing that long books often are abridged. (However, even then, it would make more sense to leave “unabridged” out, and to be very, very careful about marking all abridged works as “abridged”.) There might be some very, very rare exception, e.g. when some episode has not been aired for censorship reasons or when portions of episodes have been cut to fit a certain combination of time-slot and advertising; however, both are quite rare in Germany. (While, by reputation, British TV series are often cut when aired in the U.S.)

  5. The treatment of “Breaking Bad” was particularly poor and dishonest: The fifth and simultaneously last season was split into and advertised as, respectively, the fifth season (half-a-season at full price) and the last season (half-a-season at full price).

    This is made the worse, because anyone who had, even casually, followed the news on the series would have known that the fifth (in the true sense) season also was the last, and must have assumed that the claim of “fifth season” implied the end of the series.

    With the previous item, the observant buyer at least has a chance and most of the victims will be among the poor readers, but here it would take actually research to become aware of the problem. (Yes, I too fell for this one.)

(To which can be added the more global problems, like unskippable copyright warnings and trailers, annoying menus, and whatnots—some of which reach the point of invalidating merchantability or fitness for purpose.)

Excursion on further action:
In a parallel email, I will confront Koch Media and demand that the missing episodes be provided to me separately.

Excursion on books:
Unfortunately, such dirty methods are not limited to DVDs. For instance, many thick U.S. fantasy books that sell at price X in the U.S. are split into several smaller volumes when translated to German—and sell at price X each.*

*Or, at least, they were/did during my first few years in Germany, when the access to English language books was much more restricted than today (and I read much more fantasy than I do now). Such nonsense, the poor quality of translation, and the inevitable distortion through even a rare good translation, moved me to stick to English whenever possible, and I cannot speak as to the current situation.

Excursion on dubbing:
Dubbing is the bane of TV/movies/acting/whatnot in Germany. Compared to Sweden, this malpractice has left generations with Germans with a stunted English, a distorted understanding of acting,* and some very odd ideas through various mistranslations.** The average TV sender (at least when I stilled watched TV) sends every non-German program dubbed into German. The vast majority of all cinemas are exclusively or almost exclusively German only. Until possibly as late as ten years ago, DVD buyers had to be very, very careful to check that there actually was an English audio track on originally English (language) movies.*** Etc. (And, yes, this applies even to “art” movies and, almost unbelievably, musicals.)

*I have a long standing hypothesis that the mediocre level of German acting is largely a result of dubbing: Not only are viewers removed from the larger market of English-speaking actors, but since the dub-actors are often second-/third-rate and/or obsessed with “sounding cool” and/or try to play every single character as were he a professional speaker, the mark of comparison is set far too low, which (in turn) hits the quality of even (original) German productions. (Calling dub-actors “voice actors” is a potential insult to many of the U.S. and Japanese voice actors that I have heard in the context of animation: Not only are these very often better actors in general, but they also avoid the forced/fake “coolness” and unnatural voices of German dub-actors—unless and to the degree that the specific part calls for it.)

**For instance, the German version of “Die Hard” is infamous for making the terrorists non-German and then having to jump through various continuity hoops to make things fit. For instance, there are often gross translation errors. For instance, there is often a considerable dumbing down or drop in register compared to the original phrasing—I once caught the trailers of some movie in both German and English: The original used phrases like (in my rough recollection) “You may repossess your vehicle!” and “Are you resisting arrest?”, while the translation used (again, rough recollection) “Fahren Sie Ihre Schrottkarre weg!” (“Drive your piece of trash away!”) and “Nah, wer hüpft denn da herum!” (“Who is jumping [sic!] around?”) for the same respective passage.

***And, as described above, this was not always enough…

I actually tend to use attitude towards dubbing as an informal intelligence test: Does a German prefer original versions, if need be with sub-titles, or dubbed versions? If the former, he is usually a fair bit above average in intelligence, education, and intellectual aspiration (as born out by later experiences); if the latter, he will* fail on at least one the three criteria, irrespective of how he otherwise looks on paper. Certainly, I will condemn him as a “Banause”, in light of the immense damage that dubbing causes to the quality of a work.

*I can recall no exception among people my age or younger, although some are bound to exist with a large enough sample. Older generations might be excused, for having had lesser opportunities (or currently having weaker eyes).

Written by michaeleriksson

January 7, 2019 at 12:40 am

Apartment frauds

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I am currently looking for a new apartment (my current being both over-priced and provided by a less than white-vested landlord—he, however, is not the topic of this post). Doing so, I stumbled upon an everything-included 65 m^2 apartment at a mere 300 Euro—not entirely unheard of, even in the middle of Cologne, but certainly a rarity where some catch could be suspected: Possibly, the location was smack on top of a discotheque? Possibly, the ad was a bait-and-switch from a dubious realtor?

No: A first electronic contact resulted in a return email, describing how the apartment’s owner, Laurentiu Marian Ganea, had to relocate to London for a few years and needed to let the apartment.

All-in-all, not entirely implausible, but with an added tale of the sole key being in London with the owner and a discrepancy in the names used, the situation remained suspect. I refrained from an early judgement, however: The great amount of detail included seemed to give the offer some realism.

Now, in a first step, I wrote a pleasing email, wanting to live up to the owner’s stated “perfect person” criterion (I would certainly be highly selective in his shoes). Within 12 minutes of sending, I received a surprisingly lengthy answer that made me very, very suspicious: The problem with the key was solved, UPS would handle this through some sort of escrow and, by all appearances, he had settled on me as his tenant. Really? Would anyone in his right mind give the key to an apartment with electronics and furniture in it to a complete stranger? Why was he not more choosy, considering that he could offer an extremely good deal, which should have had the people lined up to apply? Why did he seem to stress the benefits of quick action? Even with his relocation issues…

(Also, the UPS solution is slightly suspect, in and by it self, UPS being a not uncommon tool for fraudsters.)

Next step: See if his name was known to detective Google. It was. One page declared him the new star on the fraudster skye.

Well, as the saying goes: If it seems too good to be true…

As an aside, in the future, I will likely consult detective Google at an early stage as a matter of course. The time wasted on a failed search is shorter than that wasted on writing emails or hunting someone down on the telephone.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 21, 2010 at 12:38 pm