News from the Past: Broadband users kicked off service for constant questioning
A UK ISP, Plusnet, terminated the service of two of their broadband service customers for asking too many repeated questions and taking up too much customer support time on their portal discussion forums.
Early last year, Plusnet, an ISP with nearly 200,000 subscribers, cut its prices for all of its broadband products. In doing so, Plusnet allegedly did not inform its existing customers by e-mail, and instead published new products and prices on their public portal. This manner of notice for the price changes may have resulted in thousands of customers paying almost twice as much for the same service.
Within the last month, Plusnet began Packet Shaping peer-to-peer transfers for users of its 'Premier' service, which is sold and described as a 'clean' connection.
They also recently introduced the throttling [enforcing a maximum limit] of customers using more than 150GB per month of bandwidth. Users whose bandwidth is throttled receive service of 70Kbps, while paying for 2Mbps. This figure is based on the PlusNet network contention of 30:1, being 2mb divided by thirty users. The throttle is in place until the end of the customers current billing period, and is meant to help keep broadband access for all Plusnet users fast by stopping a small percentage of users from using excessive bandwidth. As a result, the ISP has begun receiving numbers of customer complaints and criticism both privately and through their publicly accessible member discussion forums. Though the vast majority of comments on this new Sustainable Usage Policy have been positive.
Wade Woverly, 20, from Leeds (also known as "Wadev1589"), started a thread in the Plusnet member discussion forums challenging the ISP on a number of customer service issues. One of those was regarding the customers who were paying an unnecessary premium for the same internet connection. In addition, Woverly mentioned he was assisting the Trading Standards Institute with an investigation of the legality of terms and conditions of Plusnet.
The accusations by Woverly, that customers are being over-charged, are considered speculative. Woverly asked the same questions dozens of times on forum pages, hoping to receive some sort of answer from Plusnet that he considered satisfactory. Ultimately, he claims the ISP called him on the telephone and said that if he didn't stop posting comments on their forums, they would terminate his ADSL internet connection and forum access. Woverly said Plusnet's position was that he was using up excessive customer services resources.
After a night of lengthy posts both on Plusnet boards and at the forums at ADSLGuide, a Customer Services Manager at Plusnet, Carol Axe, allegedly contacted Woverly to inform him that they would be terminating his service, and that he has 30 days to migrate away until his line will be disconnected. Axe refused to allow her conversation to be recorded: "her voice was that of rude arrogance, not listening at all, it was a true ultimatum of a call," according to Woverly.
Neil Armstrong, the Head of Marketing at Plusnet, commented, "Our comms team is there to serve all our customers, not to be drained by one unreasonably demanding customer."
The Plusnet forums are led by a team of moderators, also customers, whose job it is to deal with problem posters, amongst other things. Forum Moderator Liam Martin, another stirrer, said "Part of our moderation involves restricting access to those users causing problems... and this is always carried out at our discretion when we believe somebody is causing a nuisance and/or breaking forum rules. 'Wadev1589' didn't come close to being banned, in my book. This has come as a complete shock."
A second user, "pr100" from Wargrave, has since then had his service ended after being given the same ultimatum. He was told that it was "in his best interests". He responded on the Plusnet forum, "I did suggest to her that perhaps PlusNet should allow me to decide what will be in my best interest whereupon she stopped beating around the bush and said that my account was being terminated because of my anti-PlusNet posts in the forum." Not all ISP's would give you the option of migrating or losing your BB connection, some would just use their right to end your contract forthwith.
Another forum user, "chuffbears", commented, "Carol [Axe] is in a position where she should be taking responsibility for customer service. In my book she should be issuing an apology over this entire situation."