tele-dis-communications

When Mood Music
2008-04-02 22:13:00 annoyed my iPhone synchronising

Late in February, I visited my parents and sister. Among other things, I completely reinstalled my dad’s PC. When I left, it was working as well as it could and communicating with the internet via a BT broadband connection and a netgear DG834 broadband router. (The PC and my mums old-style iBook were connected to the router by ethernet and my sister’s PC laptop was connected via the router’s wireless network.)

In early march, my dad phoned me to say that he could suddenly no longer contact the internet. After a period of back-seat driving down the phone, we ascertained that the PCs and iBook were talking to the router (at least they were getting IP addresses from the router’s DHCP controller) and so I reckoned the router was probably ok. Of course, there was no way to test whether any of the cabling in the house had suddenly died but I believed not, considering that dad spoke to me via a phone connected into the phone socket of the ADSL micro-filter that connected the router to the house’s phone network. Dad also assured me he hadn’t touched any of the kit. A couple of days of head-scratching and trying various things ensued, all to no avail.

Then dad contacted BT. They told him that someone else had told them to disconnect his broadband service and he recalled that he’d signed up with another telecoms company who had offered phone and broadband services at cheaper rates than BT. However, he couldn’t (yet) connect to their service. Many phonecalls to that company eventually resulted in the arrival of a Zoom-branded modem and the assurance that his line was indeed conducting the internet into the house via this company’s broadband service. Ineed, the system appeared to work, but very patchily. A connection could be made but it would last for two minutes at the most. The only way he found to re-establish this connection was to restart the PC. He again contacted the company to try to get them to help him. As I understand it, this seemed to work.

However, by now my mum and sister had gone on holiday abroad. They tried to phone him to say they’d arrived safely but found that the home number was engaged for along time. This, and the fact that dad told me the Zoom modem was plugged into the modem socket of his PC led us to believe that the telecoms company had supplied a dial-up modem. (I can’t recall if we retried the router but I think we didn’t – we probably thought it best to try with the supplied kit so that the telecoms company’s folk wouldn’t have to deal with things they didn’t know about. Yes, I am kicking myself for not pondering harder about the modem apparently being plugged into the PC’s built-in modem’s socket. With hindsight, I think what dad was seeing was a cable connecting his PC’s modem port to the house’s phone network. We’d left this in place so he could send and receive faxes.)

So dad was incensed – mum had nearly abandoned the holiday because she was worried that something had happened to dad – and wrote to the company, telling them that because they hadn’t given him the connections and/or hardware necessary to provide the broadband service they promised, he was withdrawing from the contract. After all, they had broken it first by not providing what was promised. As soon as Royal Mail showed that his letter had been delivered, he told his bank to cancel the direct debit payments to this company, as he had warned in his letter.

Dad then tried to reactivate his account with BT. He was promised it would all be working on 27th March. Are any of you surprised it wasn’t and that BT took until yesterday to deliver kit that they said would have arrived last week? Even last night, my netgear router couldn’t detect any form of broadband connection. Dad also tried the BT home hub which had arrived during the day. It too implied that no broadband connection was present.

Today, the other telecomms company phoned him. They asked him if he knew that withdrawing from the contract would cost him £300 (£150 for the phone contract and £150 for the broadband contract). He said he didn’t, that he hadn’t seen any contract wording and that as far as he was concerned he was speaking to them over a BT line. They told him that he wasn’t and that if he didn’t pay up within 7 days, they would send bailiffs to extract the payment from him, especially because the broadband connection was in place as far as they were concerned. Of course, Dad won’t risk this, not least because of how Dad asked me if there was a telephone ombudsman and I found contact details for Ofcom and Otelo for him. He also told me that he’d found the contract wording on the back of his ‘welcome – here’s your kit’ letter, in type so small and grey he needed a magnifying glass to read it.

I still thought that because the telecomms company hadn’t provided the necessary kit to connect to the connection this company was claiming to have provided and so dad would have a reasonable chance of proving they’d dishonoured the contract. So I asked him to tell me the Zoom modem’s model number: I intended to look it up and so ‘prove’ it was a dial-up modem. Dad then told me ‘it says Zoom ADSL modem‘. His current plan is to contact Ofcom and Otelo first thing tomorrow but he is fairly resigned to paying the £300 just to get shot of them, and then persevering with BT.

I suppose caveat emptor may well apply but the irony of this telecomms company having promised to save my dad some money is almost chewable. More than that, it sickens me to hear my dad sounding beaten. If anyone has any constructive advice, please comment, email or phone me.

UPDATE: lunchtime, Thursday 3rd April
Dad has spoken with Otelo: based on what they’ve told him, he’s written again to Axis. (I don’t know what he’s said to them.) He’s curently trying to sort out where his is with BT.

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