One man's action plan for Ofcom

  TOPCAT® 22:24 25 Apr 2006

Alexander Cameron of Digital TX Ltd gives his observations on the near and long-term digital future for the regulator. Quite impressive reading and there's a lot there I would agree with. TC.

click here

Just a 'taster'of the content:

"John Pluthero said what ISPs knew about customer service he could write on the back of a postage stamp and, unfortunately, he was right. Most operators are content never to talk to their customers, let alone try to deal with their problems. An alarmingly large number do not even give their contact details to their own subscribers or the public. This lack of transparency or accountability is deeply worrying as limited companies appear and disappear as quickly as their bank loan for the BT central or VISP account runs dry. As we move into a new era of converged communication services, this type of cavalier behaviour is just not acceptable.

Survivors of ISPs that have gone spectacularly bust with little or no warning (often with buckets of their own customers’ money) are mounting up in the same way rogue premium-rate telephony scam artists have. BT has no interest in cutting off these customers’ accounts as they are cash cows that pay for a world of useful luxuries. As long as they are paying their bills (or the likelihood is that they will), it is up to the rest of us to deal with their cynical approach to service provision. Ask any UK Online or Bulldog subscriber – provisioning, support and billing aren’t exactly a speciality.

All tiers of ISPS need to be fully licensed on a national register in exactly the same way as broadcasters are. Operators should need a licence and have the appropriate diligence conducted on their affairs every year before they are allowed to deal with small businesses and/or the general public (consider full MPF unbundling, carrier pre-selection and VoIP services where access to emergency services is a key issue). Guidelines, practices and regulation need to be mandated and enforced by a central authority that can tighten up the shortcomings of such a fast-moving industry. Understandably, no-one is going to like being regulated, but it desperately needs to be done...."

  anskyber 09:40 26 Apr 2006

Goodness yes I agree. We all have our own nightmare stories with ISP's and I am no exception. For example mine was being cut off from service having moved house, not because of the move but because the ISP did not collect the £25 charge for the move until my normal statement date which as a result made me a bad debtor!!

And yes the resolution took some 8-10 premium rate calls each lasting some 30-50mins. Incidentally, when I rang yesterday to upgrade my package I was told there was a "block" on my account, no explanation. Funny, they are still taking my money each month. Am I blacklisted? Feels like it to me after my justified and polite complaints. I have given them until Friday to explain why and if not its a MAC code for me. Why should it have to be like this? Yes it is a very well known ISP.

  anskyber 15:25 26 Apr 2006

GANDALF <|:-)> Fine better that than the rubbish I have endured. And there was me thinking how unusual, I'm starting to agree with GANDALF <|:-)> !!!

  anskyber 21:10 26 Apr 2006

I'm back to fully agreeing with you.

  Forum Editor 23:43 26 Apr 2006

It's a constant source of surprise to me that some people seem to think they can shop around to get something - a product or a service - at an absolutely rock bottom, cut to the bone price, and then expect to receive the very best by way of customer service.

The old adage that "you get what you pay for" is as true today as it's always been, and so is the fact (unpalatable as it seems to be to some) that the whole idea of running a business is to trade at a profit. That's why people start businesses, and that's why many entrepreneurs work from dawn 'til dusk, seven days a week to get their companies off the ground. 'Profit' ought not to be considered a dirty word, and businesses which make good profits should be admired, not pilloried for being run by a bunch of 'fat-cats' (that favourite phrase of the jealous brigade), or accused of 'ripping off' the public.

I work in America a fair bit - mainly New York - and I'm often struck by the poles-apart thinking with regard to successful businesses that I meet with in my American colleagues. They admire and respect people who succeed in business, and they find it hard to comprehend why we seem to revel in knocking anyone who does well, or acquires wealth by hard work.

Many ISP's have long been a customer-service nightmare, and I agree with Alexander Cameron, there's a need for industry regulation. My own view is that the best regulation is not likely to come via a government department, but from an independent regulator - one with teeth. As consumers, we must be prepared to pay a reasonable price for the service, and in return we can demand a fair level of customer support. Talking to one's customers is a basic prerequisite of an efficient service provider - whether you're an ISP or a Dry cleaning shop.

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