Pipex Internet Fails

Although I live in the US, I still maintain DSL service at an address in the UK. That service is provided by Pipex, and has been for a very long time. Initially, while I was still living in the UK in the mid-90s, I signed up for dial up internet from the BBC. That service was short-lived, but all the BBC Internet users were migrated to Pipex dial-up accounts. And for a long time, even after I left the UK, that was the service that I had. A few years back, we migrated again to DSL. That was the first indication that Pipex was not managed by people who knew much about running an ISP, perhaps not anything at all.

Then, about a year ago, we were changed onto a new plan that was meant to be faster. Only the house is too far from the CO, so it isn’t faster. Then it failed every day for weeks, and all they would do is point at BT and all BT would do is point back at Pipex. So, I called and tried to cancel the service. Sorry, can’t do that because now I’m on a contract. Huh? I’ve had the service for 15+ years, what’s this about a contract?

Seems that new plan was basically a scam to get people to agree to new contracts with one year terms. So, despite being a customer for 15+ years, they think they need to get a contract in place to keep me there. What does this say about the quality of service? Yes, that it is likely to be so bad I’d want to leave. And sure enough they’re matching up to that expectation. Lock people into contracts, and then fail to provide service. I have three words for that: Breach of Contract.

In addition to contracts to lock people in to their service, they also decided that they could turn support into a profit centre as well by using a premium number. With the poor quality of their internet service, and the amount of time they keep you on hold, this might make more than the subscriptions! But here’s the rub for me: I live in the US, so I can’t call that number (it doesn’t work for international callers since they can’t get the money from me). Every time I send something in by email, I get told to call. When I ask for an international number to call, I’m told they don’t have one.

This became comical when I had to update the expiration date on the credit card I use to pay them. In the end I pointed out that unless they found a way to handle the update vie email, gave me a number I could call from outside the UK or called me, then I was going to let the card bounce and stop paying them. The card info was updated the next day.

Support Portal
Pipex Service StatusAnd then we get to the latest incident. The service is off once again. So I check their service status online in the fancy looking new portal they created. Last problem showing there was in late 2008 – almost a year ago. So, the status application doesn’t work then because I don’t know any ISP that manages to have no issues to report for an entire year; I’d be surprised if Pipex managed a week. Perhaps there were too many issues and it overwhelmed the app!

SuggestionsNext step: file a support request using their online form. I fill in the form (well, most of it – more on that below), and I get back one of those annoying auto-generated responses pages that never actually help solve the problem. In this case though, as a further demonstration of just how poor Pipex has become, there were no suggestions. Just the text telling me to check them, and the button to submit the question if the totally absent suggestions didn’t help me. FAIL!

We’ll see if they respond to the question with anything other than ‘call our premium support number.’ Perhaps when I submit the second one asking them for the exact date when the contract term is up they’ll get the message.

Just for fun, I did some digging around on their site and found that the top question in the support area is “Are there any service issues?” Guess that tells us about their reliability record. The answer is even better:

“To see if there are any problems with the Pipex Service, please click on this link.”

I clicked it, and the response was:

Not Found

The requested URL /service-status/ was not found on this server.
Apache/2.2.8 (FreeBSD) PHP/5.2.5 with Suhosin-Patch mod_ssl/2.2.8 OpenSSL/0.9.7e-p1 Server at www.mypipex.net Port 443

So, yes, clearly there are problems – even the status page is broken.

Data Protection
This one really bugs me. In all their correspondence now, email, phone and forms, they’ve started insisting on collecting my date of birth. I’m sorry, but that’s really irrelevant for providing me with internet service. They claim that they need this personal information from me in order to comply with the data protection laws in the UK. Bollocks. Those laws were meant to do the opposite of that and prevent companies keeping personal data that they didn’t need. My date of birth is not needed to provide internet service, and it is not needed to collect payment via my credit card. I know this because I’ve never given it to them. Now I give them a fake d.o.b. (one that I use for any other sites that ask for it, but don’t need it – call it my unofficial d.o.b.).

Either Pipex is totally clueless, or they’re trying to collect additional personal data from their customers and using the DPA as an excuse. Not sure which is most likely, but for now I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that they’re just clueless. They sure as heck don’t know how to run an ISP.

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