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Localtel savaged by BBC's Watchdog

Tempo announces on national TV that it will stop stocking Screaming.net CDs

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Electrical retailer Tempo is to cease stocking software offering Internet access via its ISP Screaming.net. The decision was announced on Thursday night's edition of Watchdog after the flagship BBC consumer affairs programme broadcast a damning investigation into the ISP. Only last month, Tempo withdrew CDs from its stores after it took the decision to ensure that existing users benefited from improvements in its service. It's unclear whether last night's announcement on national TV is a new moratorium or just an extension of the old one. Localtel, the telco that runs Screaming.net with Tempo, did not escape from the jaws of Watchdog and was singled out in the report for delivering poor service. In a test carried out by the programme makers it claimed it took almost 15 minutes to connect to the Net using Screaming.net. But the most damning criticism came when customers went on record to say how much they'd been overcharged by the Surrey-based telco. Those interviewed said they'd been charged for the off-peak toll-free calls to the Net when they should have been free, inflating some bills by several hundred pounds a month. Watchdog produced documented evidence that showed unless these bills were paid Localtel threatened legal action against the individuals. Indeed, the intervention by a high profile TV programme such as Watchdog should be regarded a warning to other ISPs to get their services in order. There is a tangible mood of discontent among many UK Net users that they are simply receiving a second-rate service. What's more, they're not afraid to complain. More and more Net users are threatening to report failing ISPs to consumer groups and trading standards authorities if their requests for improved services are not met. Only yesterday, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint from a Net user against The X-Stream Network after it made false claims about its 0800 service. Some AOL UK members who are threatening strike action against the service provider have also said they're prepared to report the Net company to Watchdog. And Scottish-based ISP 08004u has received a visit from Trading Standards Officers in Dundee after users complained about its service. Having witnessed the success of a determined band of Screamers to get their grievances heard on terrestrial TV it can only be a mater of time before another Net company has its dirty laundry washed in front of the nation. ®

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