Demon could sue BT for poaching customers

There's going to be hell to pay for the way BT is treating Demon's customers. Jane Wakefield reports

Demon Internet is considering legal action against beleagured telco British Telecommunications (quote: BT) alleging that it has been poaching its customers. The ISP, owned by Scottish telco Thus (quote: THUS), said BT is telling customers that Demon will not offer a SurfTime unmetered Internet service. Demon announced it would launch its service, based on SurfTime, earlier this year. Demon claims the telco's information is misleading. It is also irked by the fact it has no alternative but to use SurfTime which it claims is confusing for customers. It has also revealed to ZDNet that it is consulting industry about a joint complaint over BT's ADSL service. Speaking at TMA 2000 Monday, a Demon spokeswoman said: "BT has been advising customers that we won't be offering SurfTime and this has led to a loss of customers. We are seeking legal counsel on that," she said. Demon's unmetered offering comes in two flavours: Premier Connect, for evening and weekends, where users pay Demon £10 per month and £5.99 per month to BT, and Premier Connect Plus, which offers completely unmetered access, charges £19.99 per month to Demon and a further £19.99 to BT. Demon says the current SurfTime model is too complicated because users have to register with both their own ISP and BT. "Imagine the poor punter trying to make sense of it. You have got to ask where SurfTime is going," the Demon spokeswoman said. In common with many other ISPs, Demon is looking forward to the roll out of Friaco-based services and it expects to make an announcement in the next three months. Demon is also considering stepping up a notch complaints about BT's wholesale service. Its original complaint -- sent to Oftel in March -- claimed that BT's wholesale division offers BTopenworld a preferential rate for wholesale ADSL services. Demon is also concerned that service levels are not well defined. Confused customers are complaining to Demon about faults and long waiting lists for installation. Demon says BT's inability to deal with these issues is affecting its brand. "What you want is guaranteed levels of service. We have our brand at stake." The spokeswoman explained what Demon plans to do next in its dealings with BT: "We are asking industry players what their views are and thinking of taking it forward as a body," she said. According to Oftel no action has yet been taken. "SurfTime is a BT product. It is a retail product and we will sell it directly to customers. We are allowed by law to do that. It is up to Demon to sell it themselves," said a BT spokesperson. Take me to the Unmetered Access Special English patience wears thin
Being English, Peter Judge is used to inconvenience and does not mind waiting for broadband. But BT's rivals are becoming so impatient they may resort to the law. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment. To have your say online click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum. Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read what others have said.

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