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Tiscali locks down contracts after email disaster

Complaints roll in to ISP trade body

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Updated Tiscali says that broadband customers left fuming by its week of undelivered email remain bound by their contracts, and should accept that email is a free extra.

Spokeswoman Jody Haskayne told The Reg: "They have a contract with us and they are obliged to pay us." Customers who want to switch to another provider because of email should "make their case" to the firm, she said.

"We provide a quality email service...it is free and they are not obliged to use it." Tiscali said it now believes it has fixed all problems with the system, which began early last week. On Friday afternoon it still didn't know whether emails have been permanently lost, however.

Earlier in the day, the internet providers' trade association, ISPA, said it had registered an increase in complaints about Italy-based Tiscali, which has nearly 1.5 million subscribers in the UK. A spokesman said the the uptick was "not little". In an unresolved dispute between internet users and their provider, ISPA refers the issue to CISAS, an Ofcom-approved arbitration service. Details of the complaints procedure are here.

In an update to customers on Thursday, Tiscali said it had replaced email hardware, but did not explain how new kit would influence its reputation as a source of spam. Haskayne said the upgrade was already planned but had been brought forward by the blacklisting, while bosses from the ISP have refused to speak to any media outlet about the crisis.

After the problems with outgoing email last week, Tiscali waited until this Tuesday to announce that it had been added to anti-spam blacklists. It said the delay was caused by the issue "not being escalated" from one part of Tiscali to another.

Mail abuse tracking service Spamhaus, which operates honeytrap addresses to monitor spam activity, says it has not measured any increase in mail from Tiscali addresses that would have caused it to be added to a blacklist. The ISP said Spamhaus were not behind its blacklisting, but that it had made it on to SORBS.net* block list.

Despite admitting failures in communication over the debacle, which is expected to continue well into next week, Tiscali has yet to explain what has happened to thousands of missing messages. On Thursday, Haskayne said the firm "would assume" that some are lost forever, while in its forum an anonymous company representative has recommended people resend everything if they have saved copies in their sent items folder. ®

*Update

We contacted SORBS boss Matthew Sullivan, who confirmed that the anti-spam outfit had blacklisted Tiscali. He said: "From what I can tell [our lists] were the cause of most of the pain (why I don't know, I wasn't aware we were that well used in the UK)".

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