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New 'reasonable use' guidelines

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PlusNet has mass-emailed 500 more customers, threatening them with disconnection unless they use the Internet service "responsibly". At the same, the company has posted "Fair and reasonable usage guide for Surftime accounts" which state (among other things) that connecting to the Net for more than an hour-and-a-half in the evening or at weekends is "out of order" (1 hour 50 minutes and above is "taking the Michael").

Customers are understandably angry and the company's discussion forums have been swamped with furious messages and competitor recommendations. Earlier this month, PlusNet broke all previous records by cutting off 1,100 customers that it claimed were abusing the service. And on Thursday, PlusNet managing director Lee Strafford posted a message blaming BT for its problems. Ex-customers are also claiming that PlusNet has failed to cancel subscription charges and a monthly fee is still being taken out their account.

We had a word with Mr Strafford. "No customers have been cut off," he told us. "We have emailed around 500 customers, informing them that their usage profile is unacceptable and have asked them to change or move onto a different service." One Reg reader would disagree: "I've just been kicked off. They did it overnight, so no warning whatsoever. I had to *guess* that I might be able to log in to their 0845 number and pick up the email telling me I could no longer pick up any email..."

A number of other customers have also expressed despair that the company has rewritten its terms & conditions several times and then implemented them retrospectively. Others talk of suing PlusNet for failing to provide a service they charge for. It seems unlikely that anyone will go to the trouble to find out whether there is a case. Another reader has a good point, however: "What really annoys me is that when you sign up for Surftime, it's for three months minimum, and I've only been on for two months, so I'll be paying BT £19.99 for a service I can't use."

Mr Strafford also refutes claims made by three Reg readers (and reiterated by others on PlusNet's forums) that they are still being charged £5.99, despite having been kicked off the service for "abuse". "That is not the case," he told us. "Due to the billing system, there have been some problems but everything is working now." He assures us that no one is being charged that shouldn't be and everyone will be refunded if they have been overcharged.

Whatever the truth of the situation, PlusNet is getting a bad name for itself. One customer informed us that he was moving to another ISP even though PlusNet hasn't sent him any warning emails. "How do I know I won't be cut off next month when they change the rules again?" he queried.

If you're interested in what PlusNet now feels is acceptable use, here's a brief summary of its new rules:

Biz+ accounts

Mon-Fri 08:00 - 18:00hrs

Design - 3 hours 40 minutes
Fair - 4 hours 20 minutes
Pushing it - 5 hours
Unfair - 5 hours 40 minute
Out of order - 6 hours 20 minutes
Taking the Michael - 7 hours and above

All other times

Design - 1 hour
Fair - 1 hour 10 minutes
Pushing it - 1 hour 20 minutes
Unfair - 1 hour 30 minutes
Out of order - 1 hour 40 minutes
Taking the Michael - 1 hour 50 minutes and above

24/7 accounts (Should that be 24.7 minutes?! - Ed)

Design - 1 hours 35 minutes
Fair - 2 hours
Pushing it - 2 hours 25 minutes
Unfair - 2 hours 50 minutes
Out of order - 3 hours 15 minutes
Taking the Michael - 3 hours 40 minutes and above

OffPeak accounts (Unmetered element only)

Design - 45 minutes
Fair - 1 hour 20 minutes
Pushing it - 1 hour 40 minutes
Unfair - 2 hours
Out of order - 2 hours 20 minutes
Taking the Michael - 2 hours 40 minutes and above

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PlusNet blames BT for poor Net service
PlusNet boots 1100 users from its service

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