ISPA's war of words
That leaked letter in full
From: NICHOLAS LANSMAN, Secretary-General, ISPA UK
I have been asked by the ISPA Council to write to you in response to a large number of complaints ISPA has received since the beginning of the week regarding Line One's recent decision to cancel its free unmetered Internet Access service.
The complaints received are all of a similar nature, and mainly concern the fact that no refund as been offered to Line One customers who signed up to this service. I have attached a selection of the complaints we have received for your information.
While a £20 credit on voice calls made via the Quip telecom service has been offered to customers, as well as the opportunity of joining BT's Surftime, many customers are angry that they have not been offered a refund of the initial £20 that was paid for the service. Many of the complainants have alleged that they do not use Quip for voice calls and only signed up for this service because it was part of the package for free Internet access.
The high demand for unmetered Internet access was obvious in the present marketplace and the Council feel that customers who signed up to the service in good faith should be adequately compensated. It is the view of the ISPA Council that the compensation that has been offered to date is unsatisfactory.
As you are aware, all ISPA members must abide by the ISPA Code of Practice. Under section 2.4 of the Code, members must 'in its dealings with consumers, other businesses and each other... act decently, fairly and reasonably at all times.' It has been alleged by some complainants that Line One have breached this section of the Code. It is also alleged that Line One have breached section 2.3 of the Code by advertising the service and accepting new subscribers long after market forecasts were succeeded.
2.3.1 Members shall use their reasonable endeavours to ensure Services (excluding Third Party Content) and Promotional Material are not of a kind that are likely to mislead by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.
If such allegations are true, this may mean that Line One also finds itself in breach of section 3 of the Code, which states:
3.1.1 Members must use all reasonable endeavours to ensure that Promotional Material transmitted by radio, television, teletext, telephone, facsimile or any other form of communication must observe the provisions of this Code and the Codes of Practice published by the Independent Television Commission and the Radio Authority (where relevant) in the manner most reasonable and appropriate to the technology employed.
3.1.2 Promotional Material must also comply with the provisions of the British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion which are supervised by the Advertising Standards Authority.
3.1.3 Services and Promotional Material shall comply with the Code of Practice applied by ICSTIS when access to them is made via a premium rate telephone call.
3.1.4 In addition to the codes of practice referred to in Clauses 3.1.1 to 3.1.3 above, Members must also comply with any other code of practice expressly regulating Promotional Material.
3.2 Pricing Information
3.2.1 Members must ensure that charges for Services are clearly stated in relevant Promotional Material. Members must make clear whether any such charges quoted are inclusive or exclusive of VAT. Where additional charges, for example on-line charges, are payable this should be stated.
3.2.2 Members must use reasonable endeavours to ensure that textual pricing information relating to charges for Services is accurate, up to date, legible, prominent and presented in such a way that does not require close examination.
All members of ISPA are obliged to comply with the Code. We consider on the basis of the information provided to us that Line One is in breach of the above provisions of the ISPA Code.
Please provide to us in writing, within 7 days from the date of receipt of this letter, full details of how you propose to resolve the complaints. Failure to provide us with and implement a satisfactory proposal for dealing with these complaints is a serious issue for Line One, not only because it undermines the position of ISPA (of which you are a member) as a self-regulatory body, but because it calls in to question Line One's agreement to comply with the Code. It is the recommendation of ISPA Council that customers of Line One are provided with the option of accepting a full refund of the £20 they paid to received the service, alongside the other offers of compensation.
I feel it is important to point out that none of the complaints received by ISPA refer to the standard or quality of service provided by Line One. On the contrary, many appear to be more than satisfied with the service they have received. However, while Line One is a valued member of ISPA, it is important that ISPA is not discredited by its' members in any way. The decision to write this letter has not been taken lightly and ISPA has only on a few occasions, in the entire history of the trade association, had to take such action. However, the volume of complaints ISPA has received about Line One because of this issue is almost unprecedented, and therefore necessitates such action.
I look forward to receiving your comments and proposals.
Secretary-General, ISPA UK