The abject and persistent incompetence of PlusNet

PlusNet had been my ISP for years — despite the many problems I’ve had with them (metered usage, not disclosing MAC key, secret packages). On top of all this, the actual service had degraded so much — with an outage pretty much every day — that on 18 July I finally decided to leave, and move to a more expensive but much faster BT deal. Hurrah!

logo_lockup_pinkstrapline

So needless to say, they have continued to bill me.

Yes. I got my first BT bill on 17 August (by which point I had long been receiving their far superior service). And PlusNet continued to take money from my direct debit on 18 August, 16 September and 18 October.

I tried to email them about this, but there seems to be no address you can contact. At least, the address support@plus.net, which they write from certainly doesn’t work:

plusnet-no-email

I think it would be better if that didn’t happen to. You know what would make it not happen? Answering your email.

Anyway. I tried to register a ticket with their support system, but they have closed it down since I last used it a couple of years ago.

Not wanting to spend 20 minutes on hold again, I found a text-chat system that is now their preferred way of doing support. I still had to wait ages for a support person to get to me, but at least I didn’t have to do it with the telephone pressed up against my ear.

After a delay, I got to talk to “Rob”. I explained the situation to him, and he passed me over to his colleague “Marc”, who said he’d take care of it. (This was on 13 October, which needless to say was too late to prevent them from taking the payment five days later.)

Next thing I know — on 19 October — I get this email:

Date: 19 October 2016 at 12:06
From: support@plus.net
Subject: Your Plusnet Unlimited (Contracted without Phone) account has been reactivated!

Dear Mike Taylor,

Account username: mirk101

Thank you for clearing the outstanding balance on your Plusnet Unlimited (Contracted without Phone) account. Your account has now been reactivated.

All of your account’s features will be reactivated now. It normally takes up to 30 minutes until all of these are available for you to use but if your account had been cancelled this may take slightly longer.

Payment amount: £13.49
Date taken: 24th October 2016

I wish I was joking. I am not.

So I replied to the email saying “No no NO! The issue was not that *I* owed *you* money and wanted my service restored. It’s that I transferred to BT in July, and you are still billing me for nothing. Please fix this ASAP.” And I appended a transcript of the support chat from 13 October, which I had saved because I am experience enough in the ways of PlusNet to be pretty sure I would need it.

And, needless to say, my email was rejected because “emails can easily be lost, misdirected or ever deleted” and PlusNet’s solution to this problem is to lose, misdirect and delete all email up front to make sure it doesn’t happen later.

At this point I realised the only way this was ever going to get sorted out was by talking to PlusNet publicly, on Twitter:

And predictably enough, that was when they decided (or so it seemed at the time) that this was something worth sorting out:

So everything would now be OK, right?

At this point, I will simply show you the private-messaging stream. It takes some believing.

the-extraordinary-incompetence-of-plusnet

The upshot: here we are nearly five months after I left PlusNet, and they still owe me £21.93, despite my having contacted them via four different media on more than ten separate occasions.

Well, here is the punchline: you win, PlusNet. Keep the twenty quid.

This has cost me much, much more in time, unhappiness and frustration. I should have just written off the money right at the start, but I am not going to fall for the sunk-cost fallacy and keep pursuing it. The money’s yours and I wash my hands of it.

And to anyone else who’s reading this: please, for your own sanity: never, ever, ever contract with PlusNet. They will screw up in ever way possible and end up stealing your money.

11 responses to “The abject and persistent incompetence of PlusNet

  1. At least you don’t have to deal with Virgin media….

  2. Shockingly bad.
    I also work from home and I have 2 separate lines (Virgin Media fibre and PlusNet fibre) which protects me somewhat against the incompetence of both. Neither is hugely reliable but they’ve never both been down at the same time. Touch wood.
    Virgin Media’s favourite trick is turning my Internet off for 6-8 hours for “planned maintenance” starting at about 10:00am on a weekday. One would think if it’s “planned” they’d be able to warn me in advance, but apparently not. I got the second line installed after that happened twice in the space of 3 months.
    I’m pretty convinced at this point that most ISPs are unbelievably terrible.

  3. There does seem to be a culture of providing service just good enough to not get sued, and keep harvesting money sent reluctantly by unwilling victim-customers. Presumably there are exceptions out there somewhere, but where?

  4. Andrews and Arnold: http://aa.net.uk/

    They’re not cheap, but their support is second to none. That even assumes you need their support. In the last ten or so years I’ve been with them, I’ve had maybe three issues, two of which were my fault, and all of which were fixed in under an hour.

    If you work from home (as I do), accept no substitutes.

  5. I’ll second Roger’s recommendation of A&A. They provided my office Internet connectivity for a while (two bonded ADSL lines) and they really were very good. Their “FireBrick” routers are excellent as well.

  6. Yep. Cable, Internet, and Cellular companies have the worst possible service imaginable. They should just rename the Customer Service departments Customer Disservice departments.

  7. This should be criminal, because it’s evidently not a matter of inability and incompetence, but the sheer determination to keep your money.

    My last contact with my own ISP netted me the wiping of one bill of €30 after some technical problems, an upgrade from 10 to 100 Mbps with immediate effect and no extra charge the first month, their newest €100 cable modem gifted to me, all after a 3-minute phone-call. I feel almost privileged.

    And I hate to bring up the Brexit debacle, but with it looming, I think things in the UK will become more like in the U.S., which means even worse services than you have now. Everything will be about how much money can be had from the customer.

  8. I sympathise, and it’s obviously crap. But I do wonder: why didn’t you cancel the DD after they took the first payment they shouldn’t have?

  9. Two reasons: first, I wasn’t checking my bank statements for continuing payments, because I assumed PlusNet was a business rather than a crime syndicate; and then because I wanted to make it possible for them to reverse the payments because I assumed the extra payments were an honest error rather than opportunism.

  10. I get you on the first one. Very easy to miss things like that too, even if you were casually looking.

    But on the second: your DD mandate doesn’t have to be in place for the recipient to return a payment. And I write as someone who has written code to handle exactly this sort of thing.

    Of course it would all depend on how well both banks’ systems were set up — but I’d expect that to be OK — and how well PlusNet’s processes worked — and we can all imagine how effective those are likely to be.

    But for future reference, when you close an account or stop a subscription, it’s worth cancelling the DD mandate with your bank too. Then they shouldn’t pay out, and if they did, your bank would be liable.

  11. Thanks, Martin, that is helpful advice.

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