Consumer Association gets mad with Freeserve over abnormal users

ISP sends notices to quit

The Consumers Association (CA) has attacked Freeserve and other flat-fee ISPs for being "more interested in increasing their customer numbers than in delivering the services that consumers were originally promised when they signed-up".

The accusation follows last week's decision by Freeserve to bar a minority of "abnormal users" from using its flat-fee Internet access service. The Free Internet Group went a step further, threatening to prosecute flat fee customers who were, contrary to their Ts&Cs, were using its service for commercial purposes.

In an interview with channel Web site Inside-it.com (reg req'd), Adam Scorer, CA senior public affairs officer, said Freeserve was "caught out by the heavy usage of its customers... (it) should accept the blame.

"The ISPs have got themselves into a mess," he added. "Rather than luring consumers in and then kicking them off schemes, what is needed on their part is better planning, realistic projections of customer usage and clearer advertising for new schemes."

Freeserve sent out termination notices by email on Friday to 'abnormal users', stating that that their flat fee access deal, costing £10 per would end on November 6. Abnormal users, were connected "nearly 17 hours each day, everyday," according to the letter signed by Victoria Robertshaw, Customer Management Director. This usage meant that "network performance suffers for the majority of Freeserve members". Abnormal users should swap over to the ADSL "always on@ service at £39.99 per month.

Andrew Smith, an Internet journalist and recipient of a Freeswerve termination notice, was astonished to receive his email from the ISP. "I'm not even *awake* 17 hours a day," he said.

Smith freely admits he is online "a lot for non-commercial research, let's say 12 hours a day, occasionally 14 hours tops". But he asks: "How can one per cent of users on a modem-only service harm network performance to such an extent? Even if everyone in that one per cent was online 24 hours a day, sucking up every bit of bandwidth they could get, any half-decent network should still be able to cope."

No we don't have the answer, either.

Smith, who lives in the Scottish Highlands, 40 miles north of Inverness, is unable to use Freeserve's ADSL service - even if he wanted to. BT hasn't got around to
DSLing that neck of the woods, yet. ®

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