Thursday, 19 March 2009

In Which I Lose the Will to Live

I have been thinking, for a while, that I should look into changing my broadband provider. I’ve been with Tiscali since I first got broadband, about 5 years ago, and so have known for a while that I could get the same service much cheaper elsewhere, but as with so many things, it’s a matter of finding the time and energy to do the appropriate research and make the changes.

So, in the end I decided to get a bundle which also includes TV and phone, so I made a start with the cancelling and setting up.

1. Phoned BT, to cancel the line rental. Spoke to a very nice person, who confirmed that the contract could be cancelled on the date I wanted, no problem.
2. E-mailed Talk-Talk, to cancel call charges. Got confirmation by return confirming that the contract could be cancelled on the date I wanted, no problem.
3.Spoke to New Provider – set up connection, charges etc

4.Contacted current provider, tiscali….

Except, that’s where it all breaks down. I had checked the deal I was on and had discovered a number of things:
I learned that, according to their terms and conditions, they can change the terms any time they like. They will say on their website that they are changing the terms, and by continuing to use their services you are deemed to have accepted them.

Sneaky. So I went to look at the current terms, and what they say about cancellation, which is not easy. It’s as if someone has thought that if you make the information about cancellation difficult to find, no one will ever cancel.

But I found it. It says

“12.8.2 you can end your contract with us for the Broadband Services by giving us at least 30 days' notice to us by telephone or in writing (please see condition 13 "Contacting us"); "


“13.1 Written notices given under these terms and conditions may only be delivered by post or e-mail to the following addresses:
13.1.1 to us at the relevant address given on our contacts page located at our Website and addressed to Customer Services;"

I read this, and in my foolishness, thought, Ah, this means I need to write, e-mail or phone and give them 30 days notice. I tried to contact them via their ‘Contact Us’ page.

Silly me. Trying to use the ‘Contact Us’ Page leads to an endless loop of filling in the same information, pressing ‘submit’ and finding myself back at the start again. Began to think maybe ‘Submit’ was in fact an order from Tiscali to me.

I considered phoning them, despite the number they show being a premium rate one, but then I realized that this would avail me nothing, because it was after 6 p.m., and they don’t operate after 6 p.m.

So I went back to old fashioned methods and wrote them a letter, and posted it to their address as given on the ‘contact us’ part of the website, and stuck a stamp on it, and got proof of posting, and everything.

There was then a short intermission, of several days, then, having heard nothing, I tried again. This time, after only 4 attempts, I managed to send a message via the contact form.

I got an e-mail back, saying that I needed to telephone, as “cancellation requests cannot be dealt with by e-mail”

I e-mailed back to explain that (i) their own terms say that they can and (ii) as I said on the contact form, I was simply repeating what I had already put in a letter of the traditional kind to them.

Next, I got an e-mail to say they don’t accept cancellation requests by post, either.

The weird part about this, to me, was that there were obviously actual people sending these e-mails:- they were just non-standard enough to make it clear they were not automated. These e-mails, telling me I can’t contact them by post or e-mail for anything useful, also directed me to “try their ‘contact us’ page” which, as those who have been keeping track may recall, tells you that they can be contacted by, yep, post, e-mail or phone. . . .

After taking a few moments to scream quietly and ponder, wistfully, the chances of being able to track down whoever is responsible for this steaming heap of shit unfortunate state of events, and have them destroyed in lingering and creative ways arranging for a small plague of frogs, or double glazing salesmen to descend upon them.

Then I girded up my loins, and returned to the fray.

I telephoned them. I explained, politely and without using any rude words that I would like to arrange to cancel my contract with effect from 6th April, mentioning that I was aware that there terms and conditions required 30 days notice and that I had, in fact given that by writing to them.

The young woman on the other end of the phone told me that they don’t accept cancellations by post because of the Data Protection Act. I was very proud of myself for not giving her my ‘Data Protection Act 101’

She told me that there is no 30 day notice period. I bit my tongue and refrained from asking whether any of their published terms and conditions bear any resemblance to their actual terms.

She told me that they could implement immediate cancellation.

I explained, (still politely, reminding myself that she probably suffers enough by working for these clowns, and it is really Not Her Fault) I repeated that no, I needed the contract to end on 6th April, when my new provider took over.

She told me that she had already input the cancellation. Pausing only to bang my head against a wall a few times, I explained that no, I needed to have an internet connection until 6th April.

She told me that it was already ‘in the system’ and couldn’t be done.

I have to admit that at this point I was starting to wonder whether I had perhaps died without noticing it and been shunted into one of the lesser circles of hell, for unspecified reasons.

I pointed out that I had explained right at the beginning that I needed the cancellation from 6th April, and also that as I had already paid them for broadband up to the end of March.

She then said that she might be able to stop it, and a little later came back to tell me that she had.

We then moved on to the weighty issue of canceling the contract from 6th April.

She told me that they can’t accept ‘future cancellations’, and that I would have to phone again on 6th April. The ‘future cancellation’ option isn’t working on their system at the moment.

Wondering whether it might not be more fun just to stab myself in the eyeballs and have done with it, I pointed out that having followed all the rules in their own terms and conditions, having written, e-mailed and phoned them, and that if the problem was that their system wasn’t working, it would perhaps not be too much to ask that they deal with it. I made the revolutionary suggestion that perhaps she might, ooh, write it down, to diary as a cancellation to be pit onto effect on the 6th.

This seemed to be a revelation to her and she agreed that that would be possible.

I said goodbye, (after making a quick note of her name and the time of the call…I have a suspicious mind, I do) and sat back, feeling that I had a last succeeded in making all of the necessary arrangements.

With hindsight, it might have been better if I had done something else, something relaxing (you know, like juggling chainsaws, or herding cats)

Instead, I went to check my e-mails.

And found an e-mail from Tiscali, to say that they would be actioning my requested cancellation with immediate effect.

I sent them a reply, pointing out that I had just spent half and hour of my time, and a large chunk of my sanity arranging with their cancellation team for the contract to be cancelled as from 6th April.

I considered mentioning to them that sending an e-mail to say that my e-mail account will come to an end with immediate effect is a little…..short-sighted, but decided that life was too short. So I just reminded them that I had requested them to use my alternate e-mail address.

They sent an e-mail back apologising.

I went home, and discovered, to my relief, if somewhat to my surprise, that I still had internet access. And the same was true the following morning. I began to relax.

Turns out, this was a mistake.

I got home to find 2 things.

1. A letter from Tiscali, to say that another provider has requested a migration code but that they are planning to ignore it as I haven’t told them I want to move; and
2. That I have no internet access as “your username or password are invalid or expired”


Nick Harkaway said...

Don't give up. I had a similarly insane conversation with the water company the other day, involving the issue of whether I in fact still live in the property I left over 18 months ago to come to my new place, and whether the fact that I am registered on their system as having moved here and have been paying bills here for that time was proof enough.

After half an hour, it was decided that it was.

The eyeball option was looking good from round about minute three, though. It's amazing how persistent you have to be. Also amazing: every time I explained myself, the lady I was talking to kept trying to go back to her script, and when that didn't work, kept trying to go back to her supervisor... but absolutely would not allow me to speak directly the person who was giving me actual answers.

Dragonsally said...

What a 'ing stupid situation.

do you have a telecommunications ombudsman there? Luckily we do - amazing what the threat of taking something to the ombudsman can do.

Gee you are patient...weren't you a little tempted to say something along the lines of "I'm a lawyer, and I've read your freeaking terms of contract/service AND...." (I must admit, I've done it. Frustration weakened me)

Marjorie said...

Thank you! I'm not going to give up (not yet any way) - although I suspect that by the time they get their act together the new supplier will be in place anyway!

Sally, yes, very tempted, but I kept Quiches Patented Airline Subjugation tips in mind... Have managed to speak to a supervisor this morning and persauded them that they need to get someone to call me back, rather than me calling different parts of their organisation at random ion the off chance I may hot on the person who can do something which was their initial suggestion. As I gave them the switchboard number this will tip them off that I'm a lawyer without me having to say so out loud! (I don't need to tell them that I specialise in Divorce, not cotracts..)

LyleD4D said...

Much as you don't need to hear this now, I think you'll find that if you call them and request an MAC (or PAC, can't remember) code, that code is then valid for 30 days.

You then go to A.N.Other Broadband provider, tell them your MAC/PAC number, and they deal with all the transfer rubbish, without you needing to talk to Tiscali at all.

That's the way it *should* happen, anyway.

Oh, and don't forget to cancel your Tiscali direct debit at the bank on April 6 - otherwise they'll try to keep on charging you for a non-existent service. Nullify the risk of that by just pulling the d/d yourself.

Not that I've been through this loop a few times, or anything. Honest.

LyleD4D said...

Yep, MAC code (having just checked on - oddly enough - the Tiscali site)

Marjorie said...

Apparently I don't need a MAC as am going over to cable (I have doule checked this, and requested the code anyway to be on the safe side)

Don't worry, letter has already gone to the bank to cancel the Direct Debut as I have absolutely zero confidence that Tiscali will do it..

I have speant some more time speaking to them this morning - so far I have learnt that :

1. They can't reconnect me, having disconnected me in error
2. They might be able to recomnnect me, but t from this department
3. They don't know which department I need to speak to.
4. They do know which department I need to speak to but they can't pt me through to thatdepartment
5. If I ring their 10p a minute help line someone there might be able to help

I have told them that they need to find who the relevent person is and get them to call me back.

I doubt that they will.

(I have also found that the e-mail address for their complaints dept. loops back to the original contact form....)

Cheryl said...

Speaking as someone with an interest in regulatory economics, I see this sort of thing all over the place. Utility companies, cable television, mobile phone companies: they are all equally incompetent and equally brazen and dishonest in their attempts to hang on to customers by any means possible. It is an almost inevitable result of the way such businesses are run, with the focus on the wafer-thin margins and economies of scale coupled with the huge expense of acquiring customers. It is a serious systemic problem and I have no idea what can be done about it.

Marjorie said...

I'm leaning towards Voodoo at present. It may not improve their customer service but it might make me feel better!

LyleD4D said...

I'd lean more towards visiting their office with a chainsaw, but that wouldn't work either.

After all, it's *very* difficult to kill zombies...