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Freedial.biz gives up... *updated 06/03/03 15:41*
Wednesday 05 March 2003 21:30:00 by Sebastien Lahtinen

Often quoted as the lowest cost broadband provider in magazines, Freedial.biz has to our knowledge not yet connected a single client to their £12.99 per month broadband service that it has been advertising for months. Even this evening, its web site says "We are now taking live broadband orders!!" even though they have sent an e-mail to their customers who have signed up stating that they cannot fulfil their orders. In tiny red writing on the signup page, they state the service will be available from June.

We asked a number of our users who have subscribed to Freedial to tell us of their experiences and the news is shocking even though the signs have always indicated problems. Almost all of the customers responding to us complained about being unable to get timely responses to e-mails and a few experienced problems getting modems returned. Many who have not received any refund are in the process of raising chargebacks through their credit card companies. Also, it seems as if Freedial are charging almost everyone £20 because the "modem kit and accessories require considerable attention to bring them up to resalable condition". It seems surprising that this has happened to so many people (so much so that no one who contacted us stated they had received a full refund). Neill Smith, a Freedial customer said:

"This was ridiculous as I returned the modem in perfect order; I even included the cellophane bag, which the modem came in, along with the little tags that hold the cables together in the box, along with the tatty box I received it in. I only ONCE had the modem out of the box, this was to check that everything I had ordered was in the box, once I had checked it and all was OK I put everything back as found."

We e-mailed Freedial.biz over the weekend asking them to tell us how many customers they had connected so far, how many are waiting to be connected and how many have cancelled. We also asked them to tell us when they signed a contract with BT and why they were taking orders and despatching modems when it was clearly unlikely that they would have been able to activate customers quickly. On Monday, we received a reply stating that they should have an update in 24-48 hours. Although Freedial.biz have confirmed that they have an 'arrangement' with the post office to hold their mail (in response to queries about why deliveries were not being collected), they have failed to answer the simple questions we posed above, only giving "We hope to get this [update] out to our customers within the next 24-48hrs. As soon as this goes out we will contact you again regarding the information you require, as you can appreciate we would prefer to update our customers first before issuing any press releases." as a statement.

In an e-mail sent to its customers earlier this afternoon, Freedial.biz states:

"Subsequent to the last round of high level meetings with BT Wholesale we regret to inform that due to BT reneging on our agreements and special arrangements we are forced to suspend all our broadband operations. [..] Accounts with status showing as pending, processing or awaiting line check will not be processed further nor will any payments be taken.

We would like to make it clear that these delays in activation have never been to do with our business model, pricing policy or financial standard - we have always placed BT in funds of required amounts on request - this situation has arisen through absolutely no fault of FreeDial. Our priority has always been the connection of our customers in the quickest possible time frame and we have striven to achieve this even to the extent that we were persuaded by BT to trial their new MOPS provisioning system and Shared Pipe platform (we were the first ISP to sign up to this service) as they were convinced this would be the quickest solution. Obviously this has not been the case, they have not kept to promised time frames or undertakings and we are left with no alternative but to pursue every course of redress against them (BT).

We have placed official complaints with all relevant bodies and in the interests of our customers we are preparing our dossier for pending legal action."
Freedial.biz e-mail to customers

In response to this, BT has issued a statement:"BT denies that it is responsible for the problems experienced by FreeDial's customers. BT has no involvement in any cancellation arrangements between FreeDial and its customers. In view of FreeDial's indication that it intends to take legal action, BT does not consider it appropriate to comment further. Any legal action will be vigorously defended by BT"
[added 06/03/03 15:41]

Regardless of whether BT shares any responsibility for the events, we believe that the actions of Freedial.biz have a lot to be desired (to be mild) and border on irresponsible. They should not have started offering a service until their had the adequate infrastructure and agreements in place. One could forgive them for making this mistake when launching, but this has been going on for months.

Freedial.biz users are welcome to make use of our "Unlisted Providers" forum to exchange experiences. We would remind them that this is an open forum and therefore no legally privileged information should be exchanged that may compromise any case you bring against the company in question. You may also wish to contact East Sussex Trading Standards, who we believe is investigating and taking action with regard to this case.

We welcome more experiences from Freedial users which can be e-mailed to team@thinkbroadband.com using the subject line "Freedial Customer" but please keep to bullet point facts and include your full name and Freedial order number [seb]

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