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Ofcom's ISP code of practice: why it is necessary

My struggle with Plusnet

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Consumer complaints are Now Public

According to figures from Ofcom and the independent consumer service uSwitch.com, around 40,000 people every month experience difficulties when migrating to a new ISP.

With so many people standing to benefit from the new Ofcom regulations, I wrote about my experience for the citizen journalism site NowPublic.com.

Within two hours of that article going live, Liam Martin of the PlusNet "Comms Team" wrote a response, defending the company's withholding of MACs: "Our position with regards to MAC keys has always, in the past, been that customers are obliged to pay all their contractual fees and notice period subscription before we would issue a MAC. This is nothing more than an administration decision - and I think that is fair enough to be honest. We're not really a 'large' ISP."

The statement went on:

"Of course, we will comply with Ofcom's new procedure and legislation - but this doesn't detract from the fact that some customers will still have contractual obligations - be it in the form of deferred setup fees or the notice period. All that will now happen is that ISPs will make more use of debt collection agencies to claim monies owed."

No doubt there would be strong feelings among consumer groups if ISPs were to threaten disgruntled customers with debt collectors and damage to their credit ratings.

But at least the issue at hand, that of PlusNet withholding MACs, appeared to have been resolved. My code arrived by email a few minutes later, no questions asked, and with no more crazy talk about cancellation fees!

'We met all the conditions'

Speaking to The Register, PlusNet has now explained why they resisted signing-up to the voluntary code of practice for over two and a half years.

"We met all the conditions of the voluntary code but didn't sign as when customers owe us money for real costs we had incurred on customers behalf (activation, modem etc) our policy was to settle those costs before issuing a MAC," PlusNet products and marketing director Neil Armstrong said.

We also quizzed PlusNet on the timing of their decision to issue a MAC for my account so soon after the publication of the NowPublic.com article. Did that publicity have any influence on the decision?

"Your story didn't affect the decision," Armstrong said. "Your posting on the eve of the Ofcom ruling prompted Liam to get in touch with you and I'm glad we've been able to resolve your MAC code issue."

PlusNet insists that the 30-day cancellation charge will still apply for customers leaving in future, but the company again pledged to abide by Ofcom's rules.

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