Bulldog customers are up in arms about the poor levels of service and customer support they say they have experienced at the hands of the telecommunications operator.
Almost 30 customers have posted comments on ZDNet UK articles in recent weeks complaining about their experiences with Bulldog, which was bought by Cable & Wireless last year.
The most common complaints from Bulldog customers are to do with technical problems; either the service wasn't delivered on time, or didn't work properly, if at all.
Readers have also condemned Bulldog's customer service. A typical gripe is that the technical support telephone number was either engaged, or forced users to wait for an unreasonably long time.
"My experience with Bulldog over the past couple of months has left me deeply frustrated," said one IT manager. He ordered Bulldog's 4Mbps broadband product, but found two months later that his telephone line couldn't actually support more than 2Mbps.
"This is something they should have picked up on day one. They won't give me a 2Mbps connection. I'm totally appalled at the whole situation. I wouldn't recommend Bulldog to anyone," the IT manager added.
Another reader reported serious technical problems with Bulldog's 4Mbps service.
"The company repeatedly fails to return my calls and emails, and has been unable so far to offer a reliable phone service or broadband connection. It can't even get its billing correct and has failed to give a proper answer to my requests for an explanation of their billing."
Several of the readers who contacted ZDNet UK said they were keen to stop using Bulldog's services — not an easy task, if the experiences of E Stratton are typical.
"After they lured me away from BT, as soon as Bulldog connected me, my line died. My telephone and Internet have been off now for three weeks courtesy of Bulldog's ineptitude. I have spent hour after hour trying to get through to their customer service dept. When I have managed to actually contact someone, three times their customer service department has hung up on me, and I am not impolite," said Stratton.
Dissatisfied Bulldog users have also been posting their experiences on ADSLGuide, a Web site that covers the broadband market. Many have reported technical problems and frustration getting through to the firm's customer support team.
Unlike BT Wholesale, Bulldog offers broadband speeds as high as 8Mbps. Such high speeds will only work for customers who have a relatively short connection to their local exchange. Andrew Ferguson of ADSLGuide believes that Bulldog has been over-promising the availability of its broadband products, such as its @ctive range.
"Bulldog's sales would appear to be very good to 'promise' things like availability of the 8Mbps service. Their online checker has been brought into question, since it will offer the @ctive products even on lines that are unlikely to benefit from anything close to the full speed," Ferguson told ZDNet UK.
Bulldog is one of the few firms to have taken advantage of local-loop unbundling, by putting its own equipment into BT's local exchanges and offering competing services. Ferguson suspects that some of the delays reported by Bulldog customers have occurred because the unbundling of their exchange hasn't actually been completed when their order is taken.
A Bulldog spokeswoman said the company was sorry that some customers were unhappy, but insisted that the 'vast majority' of customers were satisfied with its service.
"Our service is in great demand and, rightly, people have big expectations of what it will deliver," she said.
"Getting the delivery of broadband right for each customer is complex and is affected by many factors including the location of the customer and the co-operation of multiple partners, so we do receive a lot of requests for information from our customers about their specific circumstances. We are building up customer service resources rapidly to ensure we can handle all calls satisfactorily within an acceptable time limit," the spokeswoman added.
Bulldog is no stranger to customer support claims, though. Last September it reportedly removed a logo hailing it as the British Internet Service Providers Association's "Best consumer broadband ISP for 2004", after more than 400 customers signed a petition calling for the award to be revoked.
What the users say
Here's a cross-section of comments posted by Bulldog users to ZDNet UK's talkback service.
"Customer services is extremely hard to contact, having to wait over one hour in some instances on the phone. Emails get no response."
"I had been a customer in the past and was very impressed with their service. Now that they've grown their service has slipped to the point where its unusable, they're uncontactable and I'm unimpressed."
"Bulldog appears to be in a worse state than they were in September 2004 when they announced a temporary cessation of new sign-ups because they could not cope with the customers they already had".
"I’m receiving no reply from then to my emails regarding connection stability, they fail to return my phone calls, and so on and so forth.... I am completely frustrated of their service and I hope that some one else is going to bring their 8Mbps service forwards so I could immediately switch."
"It seems amazing that if you want to buy they answer the phone straight away but customer services then that’s an hour or so wait."