RedHotAnt closes down unmetered service

RedHotAnt crawls away with no prospect of a customer refund in sight

Internet service provider RedHotAnt joins the rollcall of unmetered casualties Tuesday as it closes down its much vaunted service.

A statement on RedHotAnt's Web site signed "The Management" blames the "recent fallout in the technology sector" for its decision. It claims it searched for a buyer but that "no company has been interested in taking on the liabilities associated with RedHotAnt".

At the beginning of January RedHotAnt admitted it would not be taking on any new subscribers for its unmetered service but claimed existing users could continue using it. At the time the ISP blamed confusion over Friaco -- the wholesale unmetered package from BT -- for the decision.

Friaco is hoped to be in place across the country by the spring and will allow ISPs to offer cost-effective unmetered services. Smaller ISPs argue it is only suitable for larger providers.

For consumers, the cancellation of unmetered services is becoming as familiar as logging on, but for many there is still anger over the way the services have been terminated. RedHotAnt makes it clear in its statement that it is "not in a financial position to consider the question of refunds or compensation". In fact, very few ISPs are offering any form of compensation for lost service with most users being given less than 24 hours notice that a service is closing.

One ex-user of disbanded ISP IGClick is currently being threatened with legal action for publishing the home address of one of its directors. He claims he was forced to act as contact phone numbers for failed ISPs are virtually impossible to get hold of.

The Consumers Association has plenty of sympathy for frustrated unmetered customers and urges them to go through terms and conditions with a fine toothcomb before signing up.

"If something appears to be too good to be true, then it usually is," says a spokesman.

He urges users to also make a hard copy of any contract they sign with ISPs or other online merchants. "We have heard cases of terms and conditions being altered on Web sites. 'Buyer beware' is a saying that holds true here," he says.

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