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'Hi,thanks for calling NTL – we suck'

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Opinion They say that moving house is one of the most stressful events in your life and if - like me - you're in the middle of this ghastly process you'll know just how stressful it can become.

But in an attempt to be organised I decided I'd arrange to get hooked up to a cable phone and TV supplier in the area I'm moving to, so that everything would be ready for when I moved in. Not being familiar with the area, I wasn't sure which cableco I should call but I suspected it was NTL.

I visited the NTL Web site and entered my postcode-to-be to see if my hunch was right. And it was: "You're on our cable network," the screen said. Hurrah.

So I rang the 0800 number on the screen to get myself connected. I got cut off during the early part of my first call. So I redialled, whereupon I was put through to the wrong department.

I thought NTL was a phone company. What's up with you people - can't you even handle incoming sales calls?

It gets better though. Finally I was put through to someone who could handle my query. I was asked for the address of the property I'm moving to and to my astonishment I was told that it isn't on the NTL cable network.

"But your Web site reckons it is," I said.

To which the NTL rep replied: "Ahh, the Web site. It gets us into lots of trouble, you know."

You're not kidding.

So, what is going on with NTL and just who is the honest punter supposed to believe - a Web site that says one thing, or a phone operator with a database that says the opposite?

I was, by way of consolation, told I could still join the NTL World ISP. Some NTL customers are still waiting to receive NTL World CDs in order to sign up for the free calls ISP, and yet a good many non-NTL customers (fugitives from BT or Telewest, perhaps) have got theirs.

The cableco has flatly denied that is more interested in drumming up new business than keeping existing customers sweet, but conspiracy theorists out there might could be forgiven for thinking NTL isn't bothered about providing accurate information via its Web site and that it cares more about getting people to call up in the hope that a percentage of the disappointed will chose to sign up for one of its lesser packages anyway.

It's a serious affair having your Web site say something different from the sales arm of your business. It gives the impression that your left hand doesn't know what its old pal the right hand has been up to lately. And no one wants that sort of reputation, do they. ®

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