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10:24am on Friday, 11th June, 2021:

On and Off

Rant

I pay for my Internet connection by direct debit. In May, my Internet Service Provider didn't take the money. The money was there, it just didn't take it. As a result, two weeks ago I received an email from them telling me to pay up or I'd be disconnected. Until then, I wasn't aware that I hadn't paid up, but I checked my account and the money hadn't been taken.

OK, so I emailed them and asked what was going on. A reply came back saying that a ticket had been opened and the finance section would look at it soon.

I tried to see if I could pay directly. The method the web site told me to use was to open my invoice and click on the Worldpay icon. I opened my invoice and there was no Worldpay icon.

A week after the first email, I received a second one telling me I needed to pay up. I called the company and asked about it. The person on the phone said my ticket was still open but they'd send me a link so I could pay the outstanding amount in the meantime. They did indeed send me a link, with instructions. I followed the instructions. They told me to open my invoice and click on the Worldpay icon. There was no Worldpay icon.

I emailed back with a screenshot, but received no reply.

Two days ago, I received a third email. This one threatened court action if I didn't pay up. It also said my Internet account was suspended. Fortunately, it arrived moments before the account was suspended, so I knew what had happened.

I called again, and spoke to the same person I'd spoken to before. He said he hadn't seen my email because the ticket was now owned by the finance section. He said my problem was probably to do with the way the direct debit was set up. I could fix it if I cancelled the direct debit and set up a new one. I pointed out that this wasn't going to be easy, given that my Internet had been taken away. He restored it for a month and told me not to cancel any direct debits until I heard from the finance section.

Oh, did I mention that the company has three direct debits set up with me? One was last used in 2017, one is ongoing and the other has never been used.

Next day (yesterday), at the same time as on Wednesday, my Internet disappeared. I was attempting to join a Zoom meeting at the time. I did not manage to join it. I do have a back-up BT Internet connection that's so slow I'm convinced it runs by clockwork. Unfortunately, my wife was using that and it can't handle two Zoom calls at once (really, it's like 1.7Mbps tops and usually less than that). I set up a tether between my PC and my phone, but couldn't even load the Google home page before it timed out. I tried running Zoom from my phone directly, and that timed out too while I was joining a meeting (which I've now had to reschedule to today).

I called my ISP again and a different person answered. I explained the situation to her and she restored my Internet for a month. She assured me that it had an override on it so it wouldn't be cut off by their vicious, automated you-haven't-paid system. I shall find out at 2pm this afternoon whether her assurance is correct or not. She did look at my screenshot, and then checked my invoice herself. She was able to ascertain that there was indeed no Worldpay button, but that one would appear once the finance section cancelled the direct debit on their side. It seems that if their system knows it has a direct debit set up, it doesn't show the Worldpay button because why would it? It has a direct debit set up and can just take the money any time it wants.

The customer service people were friendly and apologetic, but the company as a whole really does need to get its act together. If a customer has an open ticket, it is not a good idea to suspend their Internet service. Throttle it if you must, but if they have to find an alternative way to connect to the Internet so they can pay their bill, then you risk their deciding to stick with that rather than return to you. Having more than two ways to pay might be worth considering, too.

I read in the Essex County Standard this morning that County Broadband had received two Gold Standard Quality Marks from the Independent Networks Co-operative Association. I guess sending emails to the effect of "pay up or you're toast" does not run counter to the values of such a Gold Standard.




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