Angry cable customers who face losing their free Internet access next week, won't get any help from telecoms watchdog Oftel unless it can prove that the cable operator has breached its license.
Oftel has launched an investigation into the conduct of Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) after the cable operator announced that it was withdrawing a phone package that had given around 65,000 customers free Internet access for several years. (see Newswire 23 August, 1999)
The thousands of CWC customers in south London and Southampton who have free unlimited access to the Internet during off peak times, under a package created by CWC predecessor Videotron, will from next month have to pay £10 per month for their free Internet calls.
Oftel confirmed to VNU Newswire that it has received several complaints from CWC customers and ISPs with customers in the affected areas about the price changes.
"We were informed by customers and are talking to Cable & Wireless about the practicalities and whether they're acting within their licence," said an Oftel spokeswoman.
But if CWC's action is within its licence, then Oftel will be unable to change the new pricing regime.
"We don't intervene on prices, so we wouldn't make them revert," the Oftel spokeswoman added.
Many irate users have contacted VNU Newswire complaining about CWC's actions. Most are angry that the free Internet access deal has been taken away, despite being promoted as one of the big selling points when Videotron originally poached the customers from BT.
"When Videotron sold these contracts, they specifically marketed it at Internet users saying that it was not a gimmick, would not be changed, and as much as told users to sign up so they could get unmetered Internet calls forever. CWC has failed to honour this contractual obligation," said one CWC customer.
Another said: "Like many other ex-Videotron/CWC customers we were sold a package which clearly stated in their vast amounts of promotional material that we were being promised free calls to other Videotron telephone numbers including ISPs."
CWC said yesterday that the free Internet access package had become uneconomical to run because of around 1,000 heavy Internet users.
"We have not been able to offer more competitive rates for the majority of these 65,000 customers because a small proportion are very heavy users of free calls to business numbers (including ISPs)," said a CWC spokeswoman.
No one from CWC was available this afternoon to provide reaction to Oftel's decision to investigate the deal.
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