A Letter To Freeserve

Posted on 10 December 2003 in Internet (2 comments)

Dear Sir/Madam,

Regarding your letter dated 8 December 2003.

Let me start by detailing this fiasco in detail once more.

9 September 2003.

After several weeks of appalling dialup service on my Freeserve AnyTime service, I decide to cancel my Freeserve account. Upon phoning your call centre I am told I will have to phone back in a months time. No explanation is given by your call centre staff for this.

I therefore decide to send written confirmation that I wish to cancel my account for the 7 October. This is done on the (incorrect) assumption that, like the overwhelming majority of internet service providers, Freeserve take payments via direct debit in advance of the payment period, when in fact Freeserve take payments in arrears.

I write informing Freeserve that they will not receive the payment expected on 22 September 2003 for this reason, assuming that payment is taken in advance of the month. Receive confirmation letter that my account will be closed on 7 October 2003.

Neither the call centre staff nor the confirmation reply letter I received stated that my assumption was incorrect. None of the documentation I received when joining Freeserve mention this state of affairs, bar a small section in the terms and conditions. It is worth noting that if your call centre staff had been appropriately trained, this issue would never have arisen, and neither Freeserve nor myself would be wasting our time on this.

2 October 2003.

Freeserve block access to the account, five days before the agreed termination point. Any attempt to dial up is rejected with the PPP logs showing 'BLOCKED'.

An attempt to query this with your call centre results in a long period being held in a queue, and as such I give up trying to query this, and leave the matter.

7 Ocotber 2003.

Account due to be closed by mutual consent. However it has been blocked by yourselves five days prior.

21 October 2003.

Freeserve write asking for payment (£14.99) for the period 8 September to 7 October 2003 claiming the account was closed on 7 October 2003.

Due to the postal strike, the letter is not received until 13 November 2003.

13 November 2003.

Having receive your letter, I realise my mistake in that Freeserve take payment in arrears.

However as the demand is for payment of 30 days service when I only received 25 days service, I am naturally not prepared to pay for five days service which I did not receive.

I explain in a letter how the issue arose, and return a cheque payable for £12.49 to cover the 25 days service I did receive.

8 December 2003.

Freeserve send a letter, return cheque and demand payment for a service not received.

10 October 2003.

Upon receiving your letter, I attempt to contact your customer service phone line, speak to an ill-informed, poorly-trained member of your staff who just keeps repeating that the service was closed on 7 October 2003, even when I explain several times that Freeserve blocked access on 2 October. I explain that I accept that this problem was partially caused by myself, and that I wish to pay the outstanding debt, that I have attempted to pay for it already, but that I am quite simply unwilling to pay the full £14.99 for 30 days service when I only had received 25.

Said member of staff tells me that his superivisor will say exactly the same thing, and that I'm best to write a letter explaining the situation. Which of course I have already done.

Rather than speak to his supervisor, I despair, put the phone down and write this letter.

In Response.

So here we are. You, Freeserve, have rejected one attempt to pay for the service I received and are now demanding full payment for a service I did not receive. Please note, if you had provided 30 days service which you are asking me to pay for, I would not be writing this letter now. I would have simply returned the full payment. However I did not receive 30 days service. I received 25.

You state in your letter dated 8 December 2003:

"Although you are able to cancel the AnyTime service at any time during the month, this does not entitle you to a reimbursement for the remainder of the month that you will not use the service."

To which I reply:

  1. I attempted to have the service ended on 7 October 2003. This was agreed by letter by one of your representatives.
  2. Freeserve blocked access on 2 October 2003, contrary to your previous letter.
  3. I did not wish the service to be cancelled on 2 October 2003. I had (incorrectly) assumed that I had payed up until the 7 October. This was my mistake in assuming that I was paying in arrears, not in advance.
  4. As you cancelled access, you are now claiming payment for a service you did not provide. I am fully prepared to pay for the service I did receive - indeed I have already sent payment in for this which you rejected.
  5. The legality of demanding payment for a service you did not provide - and indeed ACTIVELY blocked me from providing, is highly dubious, and one which would be unlikely to stand up in court regardless of your terms and conditions.
  6. If your customer service staff either by letter, or during the initial phone call, this whole mess would not have happened. The assumption that people retain information listed in your small print when they sign up, is no excuse on your part for assuming that your customers know anything.
  7. My dealings with your telephone staff have been less than satisfactory. Indeed I have found them to be lacking in any basic knowledge, and unable to answer anything remotely complicated.

However I want this issue closed, and despite the obvious breach of statutory legal consumer rights, I have returned my original cheque for £12.49, with the addition of £2.50 to make up the demanded total of £14.99.

You therefore have two options:

  1. You decide that actually demanding payment for service not received is actually an appalling way for a business to operate, and you return the additional £2.50.
  2. You decide, what the hell, let's take the extra £2.50 regardless of breach of the customers statutory rights.

As far as I am concerned, this matter is now closed. I would like to formally apologise for assuming that payment was in advance and not in arrears. I accept complete responsibility for this error on my part. However I would strongly advise you to retrain your customer service staff so that they inform the user of this fact when a consumer tries to cancel. It could have saved both parties a lot of hassle.

You have received payment in total for £14.99, which is enclosed in the form of:

  • cheque payable for £12.49 x 1
  • cheque payable for £0.20 x 2
  • cheque payable for £0.15 x 14

For your information, a copy of this letter has been posted online at: http://www.bods.me.uk/blog/2003/12/10/a_letter_to_freeserve.live.

Yours, Andrew Bowden.

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Your Comments

David Taws said:

I have been contacted by another freeserve.co.uk user
who has told me he got my account when logging in to his account, how can this happen and how can this be stopped from happening again.

I have contacted freeserve but just keep getting overseas operators who just keep giving me the run around with telephone numbers to contact and back again, even the tech support costing met 50p per minute, the closest I have to an answer is a recommendation to change my password But I don’t consider this as an appropriate solution.

Can you advise as to whom to contact direct tel or email as I am up against an impenetrable barrier of confusion and lack of support from freeserve.

Thanking you
David Taws

Posted on 26 March 2008 at 5:17 AM

Andrew Bowden said:

I'm afraid I haven't dealt with Freeserve for about five years (thankfully) so I'm afraid I can't give you any information beyond what's on the Freeserve website.

Posted on 26 March 2008 at 9:14 AM

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