The incident, which began unexpectedly on Wednesday, has angered customers, and left them unable to connect to the internet without signing a new contract — often more expensive than their previous one.
V21 was bought by another ISP, Biscit, only last month. But, on Wednesday, V21's customers found themselves faced with a page, hosted by rival provider ezeeDSL (a subsidiary of the provider 186k), explaining that their ISP no longer had any web services. No warning had been given of the cut-off.
"As of today, V Two One 'Biscit CSP' will no longer be able to provide your existing Broadband services," the screen read. "186k is not in a position to comment on the reasons for this unexpected announcement at this time. However, a plan is in place to ensure you have minimal loss of your service."
The page went on to explain that V21/Biscit's customers could ensure "service continuity" if they promptly entered their credit card details and signed up for a new 12-month contract with ezeeDSL/186k, which is also a wholesale customer of NetServices. Any customers who had already paid up front for their V21 contract would have to take it up with V21, with 186k claiming it had no customer or contract data from V21, and customers would need to start from scratch.
Worse, customers wishing to move to a provider that was not ezeeDSL would have to wait 10 days for BT to "action such cease requests". Such a process should be able to be smoothened by the issue of a migration authorisation code (MAC) but NetServices claimed that their wholesale distribution agreement with V21 forbade them from issuing MACs.
Biscit then announced on Thursday afternoon that it is beginning legal proceedings against NetServices for an undisclosed seven-figure sum.
Customers of V21/Biscit's service have reacted angrily to the sudden cut-off, and the suggestion that they should sign up with ezeeDSL.
Graham Pike, a music publisher who signed up with V21, is faced with paying nearly twice as much to continue his broadband service through ezeeDSL. He currently pays £11.99 a month for an service with a maximum speed of 8Mbps, but is being offered the same service for £25 a month from ezeeDSL. Alternatively, he could take a 512Mbps Office product for £20 a month.
"My problem is that I work from home so I need a broadband connection to send large files to clients," Pike said. "My choice is to pay a lot more for broadband from ezeeDSL, wait nearly a month to change suppliers, or resort to dial-up."
"Don't do it people, just say no!" blogged another customer on Wednesday. "Do not give in to underhand tricks, and do not commit yourself to another 12 months with a NetServices ISP, and probably little hope of a MAC at the end of it. Better to be cut off and live with dial-up, then get a new, decent, non NetServices ISP!"
Pike added that he had contacted Ofcom....