Internet supplier denies customer-retention ploy

Internet supplier denies customer-retention ploy

Summary: The legal wrangle between ISP Biscit and network provider NetServices has escalated

TOPICS: Networking

The chief executive of internet provider Biscit/V21 has accused former supplier NetServices of cutting off V21's service in a bid to hang on to its dwindling customer base.

In mid-November, V21's customers found that they had been disconnected from their ISP and routed through to a page which urged them to sign up with another customer of NetServices, EzeeDSL.

ezeeDSL — also known as 186k — had only become a familiar name during the preceding few months, after customers of the NetServices-supplied ISPs E7even (in July) and Fast24 (in November) were faced with disconnection unless they signed a new 12-month contract with ezeeDSL.

Ofcom used the conduct of NetServices as a prime example of why it should be able to enforce the issue of migration authorisation codes (MACs), which it says customers should be given without obstruction so they can switch internet providers freely. NetServices claimed it was unable to issue MACs to frustrated ex-customers of E7even, Fast24 and V21 due to issues of confidentiality.

After NetServices cut off V21, claiming it was owed money, V21's relatively new owner Biscit — which only bought it in October — decided to sue NetServices for an undisclosed seven-figure sum.

Biscit's chief executive, Hugh Paterson, told ZDNet UK on Monday that he had been contacted by NetServices during the period of "due diligence" that occurred as part of Biscit's acquisition of V21, to say that Biscit could expect a "burst bandwidth" invoice for more than £200k of unpaid charges. Paterson claims that he had agreed on the condition that it was a "proper invoice".

However, after the sale went through and Biscit received NetServices' invoice — which covered the period back to December 2005 — Paterson claims the ex-directors of V21 informed him that NetServices had not had the technology to measure "burst bandwidth" until July 2006, suggesting that the invoice had been an estimation. "Quite clearly you just reject [such an] invoice," Paterson said.

Biscit/V21 has since been auditing previous invoices received from NetServices, although it is as yet unclear as to whether Biscit might be seeking further repayments on the basis of these.

V21 had represented about 20 percent of NetServices' total custom, which is thought to number around 50,000 subscribers signed up to its resellers. However, V21's new owner, Biscit, has its own deal with BT Wholesale and is effectively a competitor to, rather than a potential customer of, NetServices. It is thought that Biscit would in fact have transferred V21's customers from NetServices to its own pipes.

"It is certainly a way for NetServices to hope to preserve its existing customer base," suggested Paterson, who added that NetServices may have found it difficult to adapt to the changing landscape of the broadband provision market. Since NetServices went public in March of this year, it has already posted a £3m loss...

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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  • View from a V21 (and now reluctant Biscit) customer.

    I'm finding all this rather rich coming from a company who has so far refused to reply to all contact attempts from customers wishing to migrate.

    I signed up with V21 three years ago, and have been rather patient with them even tho they have had many hiccups and problems regarding service.

    But now Biscit has taken over, I am no longer content to sit back and hope for the best, I have tried to cancel my account and get a MAC code but haven't had any luck.

    How is this different from the way NetServices has mistreated the other customers? Ok, I didn't lose my internet connection, but I am being held hostage.

    I am no longer within V21's minimun contract term, and I haven't agreed to Biscit's T&C, so I expected to leave without and hassle.

    Lets hope that turns out to be the case.