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Pipex issues second fair use letter to some customers
Thursday 22 March 2007 21:30:51 by Andrew Ferguson

Pipex introduced traffic management systems in 2005, and part of this included a 'Fair Use Policy' which is detailed at www.pipex.co.uk/legal.

Two weeks ago it sent warning letters to a small number of customers warning them that their usage levels were in excess of the levels that Pipex views as normal home use. Unfortunately Pipex does not detail in the letter either the customers actual usage or what constitutes normal home use. This letter gave customers 14 days to respond with a choice from one of three options:

  1. Change product to Pipex Midi which carries a 15GB usage allowance, and costs 90p per GigaByte (GB) for usage over 15GB.
  2. Switch to a Bulldog Broadband service which Pipex detail as possibly being more suitable for the usage pattern of the user.
  3. Switch to an alternate broadband provider by requesting your MAC from Pipex on 0800 1075902.

In the last couple of days those who did not reply to this letter have received a follow up letter shown below:


Click image for a larger version

This letter tells the customer that they have not replied to the previous letter and usage patterns have still not changed to be inline with the usage policy Pipex has. This means that users who received this letter will have their broadband service suspended on 28 March 2007. The 0800 1075902 telephone number is given for those wanting to talk to Pipex about the suspension or how they can alter their usage.

While we can be fairly sure that some of the users receiving these letters are fully aware of the sort of usage they make of their broadband, there will be families or shared households where the Pipex bill payer will not be aware of the overall usage level, and with no specific limits to aim for, customers will be left worrying whether any download is going to cause problems. The only guidance seems to be the extra from the Pipex fair use policy shown below:

Will I be affected by the Fair Use Policy?
If you don't use file sharing software or download large files from the Internet it's unlikely you'll ever be affected by our policy. If you do, all we request is that you do so with consideration for other customers sharing the Pipex network, for instance, downloading outside peak hours

Extract from Pipex Fair Use Policy

Given that things like Second Life, watching video on YouTube, or even paying for content downloaded from the 4oD service are becoming more popular, it would be no surprise to see people being caught out by such an unspecific policy, without them fitting into the classical image of a P2P addict.

One area we would like to see Pipex improve is the visibility that a Fair Use Policy exists on its Pipex Max product. The product listing says that the Monthly usage allowance is unlimited (a screen shot from the product pages can be viewed here), with no obvious mention of any fair use policy, given the page is also entitled All the facts customers could be forgiven for feeling mislead. The second area is to actually include in its fair use policy examples of the amount of usage, for example, what sort of usage level if you stay under will they not even consider worth worrying about in terms of fair usage, as well as descriptions of what levels of usage may see action been taken.

Pipex is far from being the only provider with vague usage policies, the whole industry needs to provide clear guidelines to consumers that are not embroiled in legal speak, or run to pages and pages of technical terms that the average user will not understand.

"The small number of customers we have contacted with regards to their usage, are all very heavy users, regularly in excess of 100Gb a month. Our second correspondence was to those users who have not yet been in contact with us to discuss their usage or confirm that they are following our legal Acceptable Use Policy or Fair Use Policy. These customers have also not changed their usage behaviour since we originally contacted them.

We do understand that in some households the bill payer may not be the principal user, which is why we have taken a staged approach and invited people to contact us directly.

Our Fair Use Policy does not contain actual examples, as usage depends on a number of factors such as time of day, amount downloaded, type of activity and whether the activity is regularly taking place. Unlike some other providers, we do not place a specific cap on usage, but we do ask that customers follow our Acceptable and Fair Use Policies so that we can be confident their activity is legal and not adversely impacting the service to other customers.

We agree that we could make the description of our Max product clearer and will change our website to make it clear that we have a Fair Use Policy. As always, we welcome feedback and incorporate customer suggestions where possible."

Statement from Pipex

Comments

Posted by CARPETBURN over 10 years ago
Typical response from them, and a pity a site like this had to get involved to even get a response.
Unless others on here are lying the quote of "Our second correspondence ...blah, blah)... These customers have also not changed their usage behaviour since we originally contacted them."
May well also be inaccurate as some have claimed they have not used their broadband or used it very little since the first letter of contact. Infact one person in the forums here that left pipex received the second letter... I spose he/she is still using their service in excess of 100Gb a month are they?
Posted by evilbond over 10 years ago
Why say its unlimited when its clearly not.. What a bunch of monkeys they are, they need to stop sticking the banana's where the sun don't shine and stop bringing on these issues with customers that they could solve by telling customers a figure.

That screenshot clearly says unlimited and not unlimited (*)


(*)Oh sorry we meant you can agree to 12 months contract and barely use the service atall or we will hound you with threatning letters thats what we really meant. Have a nice day dear customer! By the way would you like a phone deal or some fries with that?
Posted by inanimate over 10 years ago
1st letter was posted on Feb 14th, coincedentally the same day as the new 5-day MAC code rule.

When I asked about monitoring usage it was suggested I install a program on my PC, completely dumb for several reasons:
1: all machines on the LAN would need to have it installed and totals constantly checked on all machines
2: quite what I'm supposed to do with the totalls is beyond me because they wouldn't tell me how much is too much, rendering the whole excercise pointless
3: lastly, they're kicking me off so what's the freaking point of monitoring my usage at this stage in the game?
Posted by rsharma over 10 years ago
Andrew and TBB well done on taking a stance and one that seems to be growing more vocal on these kinds of issue as each day passes.

We have had comments about FUP/AUP and unlimited deals in the other article and I agree with everyone in that ISPs need to start cleaning up their act. This behaviour has gone unnoticed for far too long. Clear guidelines need to displayed by all.
Posted by warweezil over 10 years ago
I still think there is a connection between all this sudden updurge in FUP bull and the growth of such things as IPTV, I think they are trying to "clear down" bandwidth for these services so they dont have to invest in more infrastructure so that people can enjoy normal use AND the new services.

How many adverts for broadband have specifically mentioned wathing video and downloading music? It seems that was last week and this week its unacceptable

Half a gig a week? for families thats a joke!
I migrated after 5 years considering Pipex to be another good firm gone bad.
Posted by simond over 10 years ago
What ever happened to the Pipex of 5-6 years ago? Another company in the growing trend, maximise profits, screw the customer, sell it.
Posted by irrelevant over 10 years ago
Thank god I've finally left Pipex. We only had them on a second line, as backup, but were considering upgrading to the Max "Unlimited" product to actually start using the connection. But how can 15GB be reasonable in this day and age? Our other line is with UK Online. We signed up to a package with a stated limit of 500GB, which was later revised to "Unlimited." Now thay are likely to have a more reasonable definition of Unlimited, I would think, given that context.
Posted by irrelevant over 10 years ago

With all the YouTube viewing our lad does, internet radio, online gameplaying, TV catchup episodes, etc, we're online almost 24/7, not to mention regular downloads of FreeBSD ISOs. We'd never manage with a limit. How would any provider recommend we measure usage across 3 PCs, 3 Laptops, 2 games consoles and a TiVo.?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 10 years ago
To Irrelevant:

I believe the recommendation of a 15GB package was that you actually then pay for your usage beyond this level at £2.70 per 3GB block.

To sum extent we may be finding that the price of broadband has bottomed out, and while cheap packages will remain they may become more restrictive and prices will slowly rise back to levels of what they were four or five years ago. Which if people recall BB was around £40 a month.
Posted by keith_thfc over 10 years ago
Kudos to TBB for covering this one and getting Pipex to comment, even if their weasely response was to be expected.

ISP's like Pipex clearly have specific numbers in mind with their definition of "heavy usage". Yet they have so much utter contempt for their customers that they won't tell them what this is. And even more alarming - they describe the product as "unlimited" in a deliberate attempt to mislead heavy users into signing up.

When are Ofcom going to pull their fingers out of their backsides and stop this blatant 'Del Boy' style mis-selling?
Posted by nadger over 10 years ago
Ref: Andrew's comment.

There's no doubt that Pipex Int would like heavy users to buy their extra capacity - a quick calc makes 100Gb cost £91.50 per month.

I'm paying about £14 per month less than I was 5 years ago when I first joined Pipex. My connection is 4 times faster but usage is about the same.
Posted by kamelion over 10 years ago
I would suggest that anyone on the unlimited package receiving these notifications of suspension of service take legal advice on suing Pipex for a clear breach of contract.
Posted by gorty over 10 years ago
Unlimited and FUP is a contradiction in terms.

Virtually all ISP's I have encountered with such policies either never clearly define or hide it in small print. Even worse, do it covertly.

Good to see this type of article as it brings home that it is not just P2P users but also developers, gamers, Video watchers who suffer.

The Net is evolving & this policy outragious and draconian.

No more News Videos, Youtube, free trials, On Line TV/movies eek!

If they sent me such a letter, I'd be on the phone for my MAC to give to a decent ISP! AND YES, they are out there. :)
Posted by ivanhoe over 10 years ago
"Our second correspondence was to those users who have not yet been in contact with us to discuss their usage or confirm that they are following our legal Acceptable Use Policy or Fair Use Policy. These customers have also not changed their usage behaviour since we originally contacted them."

That's untrue. On the day I recieved the first letter I requested my MAC code. I have been with my new ISP for 11 days and recieved the second letter today.
Posted by doowles over 10 years ago
I left pipex a year ago when they announced these stupid limits that no-one understood. I had been with them since the start of the internet.

Moved to a cable area and never had a problem with NTL.
Posted by pzenz6 over 10 years ago
I've not seen any ISPs which give users a fair indication of what limits they should observe. So, when an inexperienced user gets a warning they probably have no idea what they've done wrong or how to fix it.
In response to: "Our Fair Use Policy does not contain actual examples, as usage depends on a number of factors ...", I'd say this. ISPs will have automation in place to do monitor and send warnings based on the above factors. This automation will have parameters which trigger the warning/s. All they need to do is tell us what those parameters are! Or am I missing something?
Posted by Silvereyes over 10 years ago
The simple fact is that Pipex, like so many others, got greedy and oversold their products. Now they are faced with the problem that they cannot support the usage they promised.
Posted by babylon5rk over 10 years ago
Well said Silvereyes, and pzenz6, there are ISPs that are listed on ThinkBroadband who do offer definitely unlimited services, as well as clear usage limits on their lower cost packages, but we users have to understand that those companies need us to cover the potential liabilility of truly unlimited usage - about £150 per month!! Otherwise they'll have to follow the path of least resistance and put in FUP like everyone else
Posted by Quench over 10 years ago
I had the letter a month ago. I had lots of arguments with Cust Serv but they refused to tell me when it was "OK" to download the files (ie. off peak) which is what they told me to do in the letter. It was the "unlimited" account I had but as we know that was just a lie. It's not unlimited. I have moved to zen, a bit more expensive but the cust serv is fantastic and I have not looked back. Everyone should vote with their feet if the ISP is not satisfactory hit them in their wallet and move.
Posted by TanCoul over 10 years ago
I too received this letter despite having requested a MAC on the day I got the original and hsving been with another provider since March 6th - it seems clear from this and other commetnts above that Pipex have simply sent letters to anyone who didn't respond to the first letter, witohut making any checks on usage or even whether people are still customers...
Posted by TAZZ69 over 10 years ago
Can't believe they have an FUP but won't tell there customers what the limits are. How can you decide if the package is suitable, other ISP's let you know where the line is drawn. Glad I never went with Pipex. I would encourage all customers to leave whether the got a letter or not, it could be you next as they have no stated limit. Anyone forced to leave should put in a claim via the small claims court for expenses incurred which could include the joining fee, as you could argue you would not have chosen the package if you were aware of the limit and the clear breach of contract IMHO.
Posted by kennethkfpoon over 10 years ago
This may be unrelated, but I’ve been a customer of Pipex Homecall for 3 months. I was in 'naughty mode' once already because I was 'in breach' of their FUP...ready for this...1GB PER WEEK between 6am-11pm Mon-Sun. The 'customer representative' told me that I was over the limit, and the 1GB cap was on the website, but that backfired because it didn't say it at all.

What's really sneaky is that I just had a look at homecall.co.uk and nowhere does it mention if the broadband is unlimited or has a cap. Will undoubtedly leave after the contract, and the new Ofcom regulations will make it easier.
Posted by nukeypearce over 10 years ago
Yes I see exactly what everyone is saying here, but there is one thing I don't understand: How can they make an assumption you are affecting other pipex user's service in the local area based on the total amount downloaded?

For example, let's say you download 150GB in one month. Most peer to peer don't download that fast anyway (200KB/s max on average). Works out that for the PC to be on 24/7 over the month to reach 150GB you would have to be downloading at 65.02KB/s. How can 65KB/s affect other peoples useage? Basing on volume downloaded isn't accurate.
Posted by aciddave over 10 years ago
I transfered from pipex in January 2007 after recieveing very poor service, speeds and customer care.
I had left for a fortnight when I recieved the first letter, and I also recieved the second letter.
Posted by aciddave over 10 years ago
also, about 3 weeks ago, they started ringing me telling me I had a problem with my account and i needed to contact them to resolve this, otherwise they'd disconnect me! needless to say, after a phone call, they've apologised!
Posted by mossmanfly over 10 years ago
I got the 2nd letter dated 20th March about cutting down our usage/change provider etc or being cut off in 10 days. Really strange as we left Pipex on the 6th of March. What will really be funny if they send another letter telling us they have suspended the broadband account. Pipex must have a really upto date system if between leaving on the 6th and the letter dated on the 20th they would see there was zero usage and that we arent even Pipex customers any more.
Posted by nettech over 10 years ago
nukeypearce: "How can they make an assumption you are affecting other pipex user's service in the local area based on the total amount downloaded?"

local area is not relevant - they will be considering the traffic on their BT Central pipes, which would carry thousands of customers
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