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Freeserve customer duped by reboot loophole

'Freeserve Anytime' customers could face massive phone charges if they fail to reboot after connecting to the ISP's Internet service

Freeserve customers who fail to relaunch Internet Explorer and Outlook Express after installing their "Freeserve Anytime" disc, could be lumbered with a massive telephone bill.

But the ISP has stated that it will not accept responsibility for customers who incur additional telephone charges, if they have failed to reboot their PC at the end of the installation process.

"We treat each customer complaint on a case by case basis... but we are warning customers that will be fully liable for not using the correct dial-up settings," said a Freeserve spokeswoman.

The problem surfaced last week when one distraught reader received a £500 telephone bill for Internet access, three months after subscribing to the "Freeserve Anytime" package. The £12.99 monthly subscription charges that Freeserve was debiting from his bank account should have covered all charges for his Internet access.

The Freeserve technical support team initially told the customer that he should have inserted a six-digit prefix in front of the number downloaded from the installation disk, in order to avoid incurring extra charges. But the ISP told ZDNet that this prefix should come up automatically as part of the installation process, and that the customer's mistake was his failure to relaunch Internet Explorer and Outlook Express after installing the software.

"I strongly feel that there must be very many people like myself, that although not quite the idiot I feel like now, are not clever enough or technically minded enough to register with these companies and understand exactly the dangers," said the customer.

The wording that appears on the Freeserve Anytime configuration package instructs users to immediately disconnect from the Internet after configuring their PC settings, and reconnect using the Freeserve Anytime service.

"The customer made an error in the installation process, but as a gesture of goodwill we will offer him three months of free Anytime Internet access, and will pay half of his phone bill," said the Freeserve spokeswoman. Yesterday the customer said he would not accept the offer, and plans to take FreeServe to the small claims court.

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