Pipex Part 1: A horrid tale of an evil phone service provider

PipexSometimes you just have to rant—the soul demands it. My rant today concerns Pipex, a dreadful and possibly fraudulent telecommunications company. The general level of customer service is incredibly low in this industry and complaints about it are all too common but Pipex stands out from the crowd for it’s appalling standards. I must add my bit to the general groundswell of discontent (there are whole sites devoted to ranting about Pipex) if only to warn anyone who, in all innocence, is considering signing up with them. My advice is, don’t.

It’s always fine in the beginning

This is what happened. I signed up with Pipex for phone and broadband in March 2006. They were cheap, efficient, had good rates for international and had decent customer service and for two years I was perfectly happy with them. Then things began to go down hill. I lost internet connection just about every day, their website had become impenetrable, I couldn’t access by bills, my international calls had become very expensive (they had changed the rates without informing customers). They promised all sorts of good deals but you had to call an expensive number to find out what these were. As for customer service—forget it.

In January of this year I was completely fed up and decided to go back to BT. In the meantime I had learned that Pipex had a terrible reputation for their poor customer service, strange billing practices and an inability to recognise a notice to quit when they saw one.

Into the murky swamp

The broadband transfer went smoothly. I requested an MAC code, which you need to change your ISP, and received it within the five statutory days. (Pipex had been rapped over the knuckles by Ofcom for delaying and muddying MAC requests and were now behaving themselves.) The phone service, however, was something else.

I no longer trusted them and so cancelled my direct debit at the end of January and sent them a cheque for what I owed for February with a letter outlining my discontent and the reasons why I was leaving them. The letter was never acknowledged though the cheque was cashed. They then billed me for March, which I ignored and then for April, which I ignored and then a late charge which I also ignored. Eventually I got a letter saying that if I didn’t pay up, they would put this in the hands of a debt collection agency.

This one I didn’t ignore. I wrote back asking them to leave me alone as I didn’t owe them anything and no way was I paying. They responded two weeks later and finally acknowledged that I had cancelled the phone service. Soon after I received a letter from Commercial Credit Services, a debt collection agency threatening legal action. I went quietly beserk ,wrote to both parties, covering the same ground and cc’d everything to everyone.

CCS wrote acknowledging the dispute and said they would consult with their client. Martin Hynes at Tiscali wrote apologising for the inconvenience I had been caused and mentioned the possibility of a so-called ‘refund’ if I sent in a bill from my new provider. Ha! I thought, they are seeing reason. I will send them what they ask for and that will be that, and with a clear mind went on holiday.

But not so. I returned on Wednesday and found another letter from CCS threatening legal action if I did not pay by 9 July, followed by  a phone call this morning from someone who said  that if I didn’t settle up that day, it would go to the solicitors. I told him to bring it on, I can hardly wait. He also kept using my first name in an annoyingly intimate way as if we were friends or something. Yuck! More in sorrow than in anger, I wrote to Martin Hynes asking why, when we were having this nice dialogue about refunds and so on, did this happen?

This brings the story up to date.  Will they or won’t they sue? I don’t know but I think they would be foolish to do so. The amount of money involved  is small —£32.20 and it may seem that the easiest option to pay it just to make them go away. But I can’t. Companies like this capitalise on people’s inertia, fear and ignorance of their rights in order to obtain money they are not entitled to and I won’t collude in that. As long as people give in they’ll  just get away with it and I don’t think they should.