Free SkypeIn for some users after 0207 snafu

Free SkypeIn for some users after 0207 snafu

Summary: The internet telephony company is trying to dampen the outrage over its decision to withdraw some of the 0207-prefixed numbers being used by SkypeIn customers

TOPICS: Networking

Skype is to compensate some of the users of its SkypeIn service after a swathe of numbers beginning with the London-based prefix 0207 were withdrawn from use.

SkypeIn is a paid-for feature of the internet telephony application that lets users give out a normal-looking phone number to friends and business associates. This allows them to be contacted anywhere through a constant, familiar number rather than requiring friends and associates to remember separate details for landline and Skype access. The choice of a number starting with 0207 is popular largely because it implies a location in central London and therefore gives the caller greater credibility with some companies.

However, in the past few weeks, Skype has been emailing some customers who use 0207 to tell them their numbers would have to be changed because the 0207 numbers would need to be returned to their supplier.

In a blog posting on Friday, Skype's Villu Arak attempted to explain why Skype had to "resort to these unpleasant measures".

"As you may know, Skype obtains SkypeIn numbers from several telecoms operators," wrote Arak. "That's because Skype itself is not a telecommunication company. We make software. So when it comes to things that involve the 'plain old telephone system', we are also someone else's customers. Mostly, this works out without a hitch. We obtain rights to use the numbers and provide them to our users as a neat, inexpensive way to bridge the telephone-Skype divide through SkypeIn."

"Sadly, this simple approach has been hit by a reality check. We spent months in discussions with a telecoms operator to see if we could keep the SkypeIn numbers we rented from them, confident that the issue could be resolved. Hence the somewhat late notice to our users — we never thought things would get this far, given the time and effort put into resolving the situation."

Arak said that those affected SkypeIn customers would get 12 months' free service on their new SkypeIn number, along with free voicemail. "We're very sorry for the trouble and (perfectly justified) swearing that this has caused. Our people are doing their best to make sure that these kinds of unpleasant surprises won't happen again," he added. The number of affected numbers remains unclear.

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Don McQueen, the chief executive of GCI Telecom — the erstwhile supplier of those withdrawn 0207 numbers — said on Friday that Skype had refused to pay GCI's fee for renewing the affected numbers. Quoted in PC Pro, McQueen said the wholesale price that GCI would have charged Skype would have been "significantly less" than the £4 monthly charge GCI usually levies on 0207 VoIP numbers. He also said that the price of 0207 numbers had gone up recently because of their popularity in services exemplified by SkypeIn.

Skype charges its SkypeIn customers £10 per quarter or £35 per year for the number itself, alongside additional call charges.

Skype has recently courted controversy as it battles to make a return on the eBay's investment in it. The e-commerce giant bought Skype two years ago. Meanwhile, the company had to make a U-turn earlier this week on its decision to hobble a resolution-boosting feature in its videocalling service, and on Thursday the German police complained that Skype's encryption was hampering its ability to monitor calls made by suspected criminals.

Topic: Networking

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • SkypeIn customers decide to move their 0207 numbers to new providers...

    You seemed to have totally missed the point here. What customers are upset about is the fact they were given under a months notice that their London 0207 SkypeIn numbers were to be disconnected. So all those small business that have given their number out to customers and paid for adverts, business cards, flyers, sign writing etc will no longer be able to receive calls in 3 weeks time! Imagine if BT sent you an email telling you that your phone number is going to change in less than a months time, would you be happy? A years free Skype In subscription is hardly compensation, considering customers pay upfront annually, many had already paid for those "free" 12 months you are talking about. What makes things worse is the lack of communication from Skype, they don't reply to emails and they don't have a phone number. From reading the SkypeIn forum it looks like customers have found a way of keeping their numbers by porting them to a new provider before the cut off date - Ofcom state that that this is a legal requirement, if Skype refuse then they will be breaking the law!
  • What's Going on at Skype?

    What in the world is really going on at Skype? Have they just decided that they have too many toes, and are trying to shoot them off one at a time? The list of gaffes and blunders is impressive:

    - They are taking away SkypeIn numbers from paying customers, giving them only a month's notice, and the cutoff date is five days before Christmas? That's quite a Merry Christmas to the small business owners who have suddenly had a huge, and perhaps irreparable, dent put in their Christmas season! The icing on the cake is that many of the electronic "vouchers" that Skype gave to users to compensate for this didn't work, so when people tried to use them when changing over to the new numbers Skype offered, they were rejected and the customer was charged for another year!

    - Two weeks ago, when they released Skype 3.6 the "High Quality Video" mode was restricted to only three models of Logitech webcams, and to users who have at least a Core Duo cpu. Now they have done an about-face, claiming that they were "suprised" at the magnitude of the user oppostion, despite the fact that the Skype User Forums were filled with pleas not to impose that restriction for six weeks before the final release.

    - The latest releases of Skype produce huge numbers of Page Faults per second (ranging from at least 700 to as many as 10,000!) on every Windows system. Skype's only response to user complaints about this is that it has "no impact on perfomance". Do they honestly think that people are going to believe such as ridiculous claim?

    - Skype has no customer service telephone number. They have no customer service live chat. They have no customer service email. The only way to contact them for help is to submit a support request through their web page, and then wait a MINIMUM of FOUR DAYS to even get the first acknowledgment that they have received it! This applies not only to free Skype service users, but to paying customers as well. It is very difficult to comprehend a situation where a company can take your money in advance for a service, and then choose not to provide that service - and please note that I am saying "choose not to", rather than "be unable to" - and then not even respond to queries as to why the service has been cut off for four days! The actual time to sort out the problem and restore service can easily run into weeks. Skype says that they are doing this to protect their customers from fraud; that is certainly necessary in some situations, but with these sort of contact problems and response times, the worst of the "fraud" is being perpetuated by Skype themselves!

    There are more examples, including of course the infamous "four day blackout" last August. But the bottom line is, what is really going on at Skype? Have they simply lost their way? Recent news reports indicate that the Skype founders decided to "take their money and run", and another article implied that the original "technical brains" at Skype have all left. Do they need new management? New techincal staff? Or just adult supervision? Have they become so desperate to try to show that eBay's massive overpayment for Skype was somehow justified, that they are blindly cutting costs, cutting staff, making deals with anyone who will offer them a little money for an "exclusive" contract, and canceling deals with anyone who doesn't meet their price demands, regardless of the impact on Skype users? The next few months are likely to be a very critical and eventful time for Skype.